Local planning officials say they have most of the funding in hand to create a giant no-whistles-allowed "quiet zone" from Miami to West Palm Beach. It could be a big quality-of-life improvement for South Floridians who live and work along the Florida East Coast railway tracks.
For All Aboard Florida, the company that's building a new passenger rail line from Miami through Broward and Palm Beach counties to Orlando, this is a big deal that could placate some of its critics.
In a quiet zone, a railroad engineer is not allowed to blow the train's whistle unless there's a real emergency. But to win the quiet-zone designation, all the rail crossings in the zone have to be upgraded to enhanced safety standards. All Aboard Florida chief operating officer Don Robinson says the company is prepared to upgrade about 200 crossings between Hallandale Beach and West Palm Beach to quiet zone standards at a cost of about $60 million.
Planning for the Miami-Dade zone, from Miami to Aventura, is still underway.
Opponents of the passenger rail line worry that the line's 16 trains a day will be too noisy to live with. And Blattner says that doesn’t even count the 14 freight trains that also pass every day and are soon to double.
"If you added another 14, up to 28 trains a day, plus All Aboard Florida's 16 trains, those horns will be going off all day long, irritating the daylights out of the residents and the businesses that are around here. That won’t be necessary now because we're going to have the quiet zones," says Richard Blattner, chairman of the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
All Aboard Florida is expected to begin service in 2016. The quiet zones still require federal approval but railway officials say they expect to be ready by the time the first trains roll.