Railroads, Trains and Quiet Zones in our backyard...
Updated: Apr 21
Please take a moment to read this if you, too, can hear the train horns... Growing up in Palm Beach Gardens, the sound of the train horn was something I could always count on as a morning wake up call, as well as a good night whistle. With continued growth in South Florida, freight trains are a regular occurrence, and passenger trains will soon also delay traffic crossing the rails.
With quiet zones, which are added safety measures, trains do not sound their horns at a crossing unless they are approaching an unsafe condition.
The FEC and Brightline have reported that at max capacity,
trains could travel across Palm Beach Gardens crossings up to 32 times per day.
The Palm Beach TPA and Board, with our county and municipalities, is working on assuring our residents are protected. I
am proud to represent you as Chair of the TPA Board.
The City of Palm Beach Gardens recently released an update on North County Quiet Zones. Find the content below, or CLICK HERE.
What is a quiet zone? A quiet zone is a section of a rail line where locomotive horns are not routinely sounded. Jurisdiction of Quiet Zones fall under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). A quiet zone removes the requirement for the routine blowing of train horns, although the conductor always has the option to blow horns at their discretion. To learn more about FRA's rules and requirements for quiet zones, visit their website.
How are quiet zones implemented? In order to establish a quiet zone, local governments or other agencies must show that the lack of the horn does not pose a significant safety risk. Some of the ways in which local governments may accomplish this include safety measures such as gates, medians, and other channelization devices. Once the intersection safety improvements are complete and meet appropriate standards, local governments or agencies must file the appropriate notices and applications for the approval and establishment of quiet zones to the Federal Railroad Administration.
What work has been done in the past on quiet zones in Palm Beach Gardens? Quite Zones are dependent on approved safety measures that are in place for motorist and pedestrians at railroad crossings. The City of Palm Beach Gardens has implemented some of these measures during new roadway construction or road redevelopment projects. When All Aboard Florida proposal came to light (now known as Brightline) future safety measures were to be implemented as part of the Brightline transit project. With the delays to the Brightline project, the intersection improvements in Palm Beach Gardens that would allow for quiet zone application have also been delayed.
What are the future plans for quiet zones in Palm Beach Gardens? Brightline – the company that has commenced high-speed passenger rail from Miami to West Palm Beach and advances with plans to continue north to Orlando – has installed safety measures in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach at select intersections. The above communities now have quiet zones. As Brightline proceeds with phase 2 of their project to bring passenger rail north from West Palm Beach to Orlando, they’ve installed safety measures at some intersections which will remove the need for trains to blow horns. However, additional safety measures may be required in Palm Beach Gardens. The City is evaluating the most practical safety improvements for several railway crossings here. Additionally, we are working with the FRA to receive credit towards the quiet zone assessment for projects already undertaken by Palm Beach Gardens. Once safety measures are in place and the risk score without horns is attained, the City will file for a quiet zone. However, approval will almost certainly be held until the Brightline passenger trains are certified for operation from the FRA. Currently, there are no quiet zones established by a municipality in Northern Palm Beach County. With that information in mind, the following summary and conclusions can be drawn:
Unfortunately, Quiet Zones aren’t as simple as passing an ordinance and/or simply notifying the Federal Railroad Administration or the railroad of a desire to have less train horn noise. Local governments will have to prove (at perhaps considerable expense) and illustrate that safety measures make horns unnecessary.
Each of the 6 railroad/vehicle intersections in Palm Beach Gardens have unique characteristics in terms of traffic counts and intersection design. The safety improvements needed for one intersection aren’t likely to be the same for others. It is important that each be carefully studied and reviewed to ensure that the City’s investment ensures safety and meets the criteria to be approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The City Council and Administration hear the concerns from the public about train noise very clearly. The preliminary strategy that is emerging at this point is to study all available alternatives and associated costs and make appropriate recommendations to the City Council as Brightline's project implementation and schedule becomes more clear.
Brightline Construction Information Beginning in February, Brightline will begin high-speed testing of their trains throughout northern Palm Beach County, to include Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach. The testing will occur from 7:00 am until 4:00 pm daily through the end of March. During the testing, trains will be operating at high speeds, at times up to 110 miles per hour. Flaggers will be present at all crossings during the testing.
Crossings affected by the high-speed test in Palm Beach Gardens include:
Donald Ross Road (determine if we include since DR is outside municipal bdry)
Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are encouraged to take extreme caution during the testing, as well as at all times when crossing railroad tracks.
To receive text alerts from Brightline concerning the latest information on the high-speed testing, text “RR110” to 888-304-0037.
For project-related construction updates in the Palm Beach Gardens area, visit GoBrightline Construction Webpage and select Palm Beach County from the drop-down list. Please direct questions and comments to Katie Mitzner with Brightline at 407-502-3587 or email@example.com.
To receive text alerts containing schedule updates and important information on the closures from Brightline, text “LOX” to 888-384-0037. Information will also be posted by Brightline to its Twitter account (@GoBrightline) and on the Brightline website (www.gobrightline.com/railroad-construction).
Federal Railroad Administration Locomotive Horn Sounding and Quiet Zone Establishment Fact Sheet
Contact the FEC for further questions about noise impacts, schedules, operational items, and horn blowing. (904) 826-2306 firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, please feel free to reach me at email@example.com
* While the opportunity exists to limit the sounding of train horns in established quiet zones, under the Train Horn Rule (49 CFR Part 222), locomotive engineers must begin to sound train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public grade crossings, except where there is no significant risk to persons, where supplementary safety measures fully compensate for the absence of the warning provided by the horn, or where the horn as a warning is not practical.