Starting Tuesday, the Brightline higher-speed trains no longer will be routinely sounding their horns at West Palm Beach crossings.
And it’s only the start: The trains are expected to go quiet at other crossings across the tri-county area, bringing relief for South Floridians who live near the coastal tracks that run by U.S. 1.
Brightline, a passenger service that opened to the public Jan. 13, has upgraded crossings with safety features, making the crossings eligible to become quiet zones. They’re areas with enough safety features for trains to pass without sounding their horns.
The original plan was to have the zones in place before the Brightline service began, but that didn’t materialize. Months after the start of the service, cities and town are readying for them to take effect.
West Palm Beach held a news conference Monday to say that the city’s quiet zone was being enacted at 11:59 p.m. Monday, along its stretch of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. Signs that say ‘no train horn,’ in addition to other safety-measures, were installed at intersections from 15th Street to West Palm Beach’s southern boundary line, Mayor Jeri Muoio said Monday.
Under certain circumstances, the horns still will be sounded. “If there’s an emergency, the engineer has full authority to blow the horn,” said Ali Soule, public affairs director for Brightline. Trains are allowed to sound their horns when they approach or leave the station.
Brightline paid for construction upgrades at close to 200 intersections along its route, Soule said. Cities had to provide additional zones that ranged from $8 million to $10 million, she said.
Among the improvements have been more road and sidewalk gates, as well as signs, bells, flashing lights and raised curbs and medians.
Following West Palm Beach, the quiet zones are expected to start in Lake Worth on May 21, Soule said. And Boca Raton, which has 10 intersections where 24-hour quiet zones, could be established about May 30, according to a letter from the city to Brightline and others.
Meanwhile, Boynton could take longer. “Boynton Beach requested additional infrastructure so they’re two or three months behind,” Soule said.
West Palm Beach also announced a public safety campaign Monday. “I’m concerned about safety with no horns,” Muoio said. “If you see tracks, think train.”
Soule said, “You should never cross unless you know you have room to cross.”
The Brightline service runs from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Service to Miami will begin Saturday with discounted fares system-wide.