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WPB to install new safety posts at select train crossings

Posted at 10:35 PM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 22:35:53-05

After several headlines over the past two months involving incidents between trains and pedestrians, Brightline service seems to be much smoother now.

The high speed rail company was under fire from several local leaders across Palm Beach County after two people were killed and at least three others injured in separate incidents since service launched between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in January.

A massive safety campaign was launched by the company, with cities along the corridor also continuing to warn drivers and pedestrians of the dangers of going around crossing barricades.

In West Palm Beach, the city is continuing to increase safety measures at nearly all crossings in order to meet quiet zone requirements.

But what about the crossings that are not included in a quiet zone? The city told WPTV on Monday that there's a plan for those crossings, too.

"We're installing additional safety measures at the 13 crossings that did not get the upgrade per the quiet zone," said Yuen Dang, traffic engineer for the city of West Palm Beach. "Those are areas that are a little more quiet in our neighborhoods, which do not need to be upgraded -- that is where we are focusing. Because we don't want to only focus on the downtown area."

In the coming weeks, crews will install traffic delineators at several railway crossings. The goal is to create more separation between cars and trains.

"We want to deter people from illegally crossing the opposite side of the street and entering the track as the gates are down," said Dang.

Dang clarified this is not in direct response to the incidents involving Brightline.

"Regardless of if we have trains or not, it's very important for us to make the right safety improvements," she said.

Dang showed us what the posts will look like.

"It's very light, very easy to install," she said, holding up an example of one in the engineering offices.

The posts will be bright yellow and four feet tall, with reflective tape so that it's extra noticeable at night. It's also made of flexible polymers and is designed to move in place if a car accidentally bumps it.

"If someone accidentally knocked it over, we can easily put it back together, it bounces right back," said Dang.

The federal government does not require these upgrades but the city believes the $25,000 cost is worth it.

"It's a low cost that yields high benefits for the community," said Dang. "Projects such as large construction projects could be $5 or $10 million -- but 25,000? We were able to find it within our budget."

The cost of the delineators also includes the cost of the project launched by the city about a month ago, involving "See Tracks, Think Train" signs painted on the ground to warn pedestrians.

“The safety of West Palm Beach residents and visitors is a top priority,” said West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio in a news release. “We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure public safety. This is a relatively low-cost safety investment that we believe will yield high return when it comes to safety and saving lives.”

Drivers will see the new posts at the 13 crossings starting at end of the month, which is the same time Brightline expects quiet zones to be completed.

"It's a great way to let people know there's a new presence in our community," said Dang.

Brightline officials told WPTV on Monday that their digital warning signs are still being rotated around key intersections between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Service to Miami is still expected to begin this year but no specific launch date has been announced yet.

Brightline is still constructing the supplemental safety measures for the quiet zone improvements in Palm Beach County. The company expects for those projects to be completed by the end of month, as officials had previously estimated.

After the improvements, cities and counties must file the Notice of Establishment with the Federal Railroad Administration. For more information on train horn rules, click here.