MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A sailing slub in Martin County said they had to cancel several events, including a 30-year-old sailing competition, due to the Brightline closure of the St. Lucie River Railroad Drawbridge.
Starting May 1, the train company started round-the-clock work to improve the bridge's operating reliability. The bridge returns to full operations at 6 a.m. on May 29, three weeks later.
Yet as WPTV previously reported, the work shuts down access for boaters trying to get from east to west, and vice versa.
Meaning the S.t Lucie Sailing Club's Commodore Darren Kirkland had to cancel their annual Running of the Cerulean Cup on the sailing competition's 30th anniversary—an event he said takes lots of planning and draws people from all over.
“We have to plan far in advance so that everyone can prepare," said Kirkland, "so, that was very disappointing. It all disrupts us."
Kirkland said what's hanging in suspension for him is what happens when construction ends. Each time one of the 32 trains expected to pass over the train crosses, it means he can't cross with his boat underneath. Many fear the drawbridge will only be open for about 15 minutes per hour.
“Does it mean that the north fork of the St. Lucie river is no longer a boatable body of water? It’s a big concern. This is our backyard. This is our lifestyle, and its greatly affecting a lot of people," said Kirkland. "Yes, we’re a sailing club and that’s recreational, but there’s also the businesses in the area that are definitely being affected as well, marinas."
The Carefree Boat Club is one of them.
"If [the drawbridge] stays closed like this, we have to take our boats all the way down and around through what they call Hell's Gate," said maintenance supervisor, Phile Fite, who added the extra mileage burns fuel.
"And fuel’s not cheap right now," said Fite.
WPTV reached out to Brightline, who said the work on the railroad will make the drawbridge more efficient and more dependable.
A spokesperson for Brightline said in order to mitigate the concern over the time the drawbridge will be closed, they are working on a bridge opening and closure app to help boaters plan.
Still, Fite feared that could cause bottle necking.
"It is gonna be a Spanish Armada coming through there, you’ll have 50 boats trying to get out," said Fite.
Fite and Kirkland said they just hope there's more equity once the train does start moving through.
"This is what we do, this is our backyard, we’ve been doing it for years, said Kirkland. "It hinders our lifestyle."
Brightline also suggested people check out theirSt Lucie Bridge landing website, where they have all the information about the bridge and its closure. Officials will continue to be updating it with additional information.
They are also encouraging the public to sign up for Brightline text alert updates on the St. Lucie rehab project.
To do so, text:"STL" to 888-384-0037.