West Palm closer to Brightline quiet zone; Friday night train added

Less than three months after Brightline began running passenger trains between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, the company has expanded service on Friday nights — offering later trains between the cities.

The last train on Fridays now departs West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale at 9 p.m., arriving at 9:40 p.m. The last train departs Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach at 10:55 p.m., arriving at 11:35 p.m.

Before the schedule change, the last train left the West Palm Beach station at 7 p.m. on Fridays.

Brightline said it made the change to “accommodate the increased demand from its guests.”

Meanwhile, Brightline’s plans to extend its train service to Miami reached a new milestone late last month, when the company’s BrightPink train pulled into the MiamiCentral station for the first time. The company released a picture of the train, named for the color of its passenger cars, parked on the station’s elevated tracks.

RELATED: West Palm could get first quiet zone along Brightline’s route

Construction at the station has entered its final stage, and Brightline has said it plans to launch service to downtown Miami in “the coming weeks.” The company’s fleet of trains will soon begin testing on the stretch of rail that runs between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, officials said.

“BrightPink climbed the newly constructed viaduct and pulled into the 50-foot elevated station, overlooking downtown Miami and the expansive multi-modal hub,” the company said. “Soon, Brightline trains will begin testing between downtown Fort Lauderdale and Miami in anticipation of extending service in the coming weeks. The start of testing will coincide with additional safety outreach throughout the South Florida region.”

MORE: Brightline moves closer to Miami service; adds Friday night train

Since starting service in January, Brightline has run as many as 22 trains a day between downtown West Palm Beach and downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The frequent trips have been a sore spot for some residents living along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, where Brightline operates its trains. Train operators are required to blow the locomotive’s horn at every rail crossing along the route — a nuisance some living near the tracks would like stopped.

On Friday, West Palm Beach became the first city in Palm Beach County to apply for a quiet zone designation along the FEC corridor. If approved, the designation would silence the horns of both Brightline’s trains and other freight locomotives.

Federal officials have 21 days to review the city’s plan and decide whether a series of new safety upgrades along the FEC tracks are enough to allow train operators to stop blasting their horns at crossings.

If federal officials sign off on the city’s plan, Assistant City Administrator Scott Kelly said Monday it would likely be about a month before the horns stop blowing.

Before it began service, Brightline was required to complete a series of safety upgrades along the FEC corridor, including the installation of a signal system that communicates with approaching trains, triggers gate openings and closings, and regulates train-crossing times.

In addition to those features, county transportation planners pledged roughly $7 million for a number of other safety improvements to establish a continuous quiet zone through six cities — Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lantana, Lake Worth and a portion of West Palm Beach. Those upgrades include medians and additional railroad gates that block traffic on both sides of the tracks at crossings. That work has been completed in West Palm Beach, but continues in some of the other cities.

Once it is complete, it is up to each city to file paperwork with the Federal Railroad Administration to create a quiet zone through their jurisdictions.

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