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Safety signs added to West Palm Brightline railroad tracks

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-30 14:34:31-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. --Two deaths and one injury during the first week of Brightline high-speed train service from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale has prompted the company and municipalities to take action.

While Brightline has said each municipality is responsible for making rail crossings safer, West Palm Beach announced plans on Monday to do just that.

The city rolled out painted signs on the sidewalks that say, "See Tracks? THINK TRAIN."

From now on, pedestrians will see those signs at all four corners of the very busy Clematis Street, as well as Banyan Boulevard and Fern Street in downtown.

"We just want to make sure people are safe when they're crossing the train tracks," said West Palm Beach mayor Jeri Muoio. "This is a public service that I think this is really important for us to do."

RELATED: Brightline train nearly hits truck that ignored warning gates

Brightline's safety coordinator Duke Pugh said during a safety conference on Friday that it is up to each individual city to handle making the crossings even more safe than the company already has.

"Trains always have the right of way," he said. "In Fort Lauderdale, there was a dead end street and they added fencing and concrete barricades.” 

Additionally, the company said it has installed about 20 digital warning signs are currently sitting at various intersections throughout the corridor, including Delray Beach, Lantana, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and Boca Raton. The company plans to rotate these signs around crucial crossings.

"We have 188 crossings between Miami and West Palm Beach. That's a lot of road crossings, that's a lot of opportunities for things to happen," said Pugh.

The company has also hired dozens of "safety ambassadors" which have been in place throughout busy rail intersections, handing out informational pamphlets and warning pedestrians of the crossings. 

Delray Beach even paid for fencing to keep people off the restricted area of the tracks on busy Atlantic Avenue, following a deadly pedestrian accident involving a freight train.

And that's why West Palm Beach is footing the small bill to install its own signs. Materials for the painted signs cost less than $500, according to the city.

"Just use your brain, people. If the arms are down, don't go across the railroad tracks," said Mayor Muoio. "Any time someone is hurt, it's just a horrible situation. We just don't want that."

Downtown pedestrian Eric Mazzoula makes the walk on Clematis Street every day for work.

"And I do see people kind of get caught off guard," he said.

Mazzoula said he often looks down while walking on the sidewalk, so he believes having the signs on the ground is a good idea.

"Any attempt to make this crossing safer is a good idea," he said. "I think it will help. Obviously the more warning, the better."

Hidalgo Dealey lives just down the street from the new signs on Clematis Street and walks the rail crossing intersection every day.

"Yes, I've seen people try to beat the trains all the train but you can't always beat the train, you just have to wait on it," he said.

He thinks having the signs on the ground says something about pedestrian behavior.

"People always be on their phone, they're walking around and they don't pay attention sometimes, their head is down," he said.

The mayor said she hopes the signs will be enough to prevent another tragedy.

"Brightline is new, people aren't familiar with it," she said. "You might have been able to outrun a Tri-Rail train, you can't outrun a Brightline train."

The city also has plans to launch a social media safety campaign with the same warnings about crossings.

When it comes to quiet zones, the city said that additional gates will be added to those zones, which are still in progress throughout the city. Another set of gates are needed at the intersections in order to meet safety requirements.

Mayor Muoio said she was recently informed by Brightline that their construction work on the quiet zones within city limits will not be completed until March 2.