The project to build an express passenger train from Miami to Orlando has cleared a major milestone.
Members of a Miami-Dade transportation board recently approved a plan to help fund construction of so-called “quiet zones” for the project between Miami and the Broward County line. Quiet zones are special security upgrades for rail crossings that make it OK for engineers to not sound locomotive horns as they approach intersections.
Approval of the quiet zone funding program by the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is important because it will give communities along the Florida East Coast Railway the long-awaited quiet zones when the $3billion project becomes operational.
The first phase of the project, service between Miami and West Palm Beach, is expected to start operating in late 2016. The second phase, West Palm Beach to Orlando, is expected to be completed by early 2017.
Quiet zones have been a significant and controversial component of the project. Without quiet zone upgrades, the train engineer must sound the horn, according to federal regulations.
Approval of the quiet zone funding program came during the Dec. 18 MPO meeting at County Hall in downtown Miami. The MPO approved a $1.5million allocation to upgrade rail crossings to the level of a quiet zone.
According to federal regulations, quiet zones can only be requested by local municipalities or authorities that have jurisdiction over the roadways that intersect rail crossings. All Aboard Florida is not required to set up quiet zones. But project managers said the considerable amounts that the company is spending on rail crossing safety upgrades will reduce the communities’ funding needs for quiet zones.
“The significant investment being made by All Aboard Florida for safety improvements at each grade crossing will drastically reduce the cost of improvements otherwise associated with the introduction of quiet zones,” said Mike Reininger, president of All Aboard Florida.
Reininger also provided an update on the overall progress of the project.
Late last year, All Aboard Florida picked Suffolk as general contractor for the MiamiCentral station that will rise alongside the Government Center Metrorail and Metromover station downtown.
“Site clearing and demolition on the nine-acre station site began in November and was completed at the end of 2014,” Reininger said. “In the first quarter of this year, piling and foundation work will be underway.”
Reiniger said actual construction of the station is expected to begin at the end of the first quarter.
Meanwhile, in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, demolition of existing buildings at future station sites has been completed and construction of the new stations is expected to begin at the end of the first quarter, the company said.
This week, the company started laying portions of the second mainline track in Palm Beach County.