Train deaths prompt Boynton Beach to add more restrictive gates

Updated Feb 01, 2018
A memorial of flowers, balloons and stuffed animals sits by the FEC railway crossing on East Ocean Boulevard in Boynton Beach Friday morning, January 19, 2018 where Jeffrey King was hit and killed by a Brightline train Wednesday. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Boynton Beach will install more restrictive gates at four railroad crossings, including one at East Ocean Avenue after a bicyclist trying to beat a Brightline train was hit and killed there less than one month ago.

The Jan. 17 death of Jeffrey King at that crossing and the Jan. 12 death of Melissa Lavell at Northeast Sixth Avenue also prompted the city to install the same gates at the Boynton Beach Boulevard crossing, said Jeff Livergood, the city’s director of public works and engineering.

The current warning devices’ arms do not meet in the middle, making it easy for pedestrians to enter the rail crossing when the arms are down. The new safety measure, also known as “quad gates,” touch in the middle, making it harder for pedestrians and drivers to maneuver around the gates.

Sign up for The Post’s Boynton Beach newsletter.

Crossings at Southeast Fifth and Southeast 12th avenues also will get the quad gates.

“These gates will enhance safety by closing more of the travel path to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. They will also ensure quiet zone status for years to come,” Livergood said.

King, 51, was on his way home from working at Troy’s Bar-Be-Cue on Federal Highway when he was hit at the Ocean Avenue crossing. A video from a camera on the front of Brightline’s locomotive shows the crossing gates were down when he rode over one of two sets of train tracks on the FEC line before he was struck. The ringing of a bell also can be heard on the video and the engineer told police the train’s horn sounded before going through the crossing.

Zedrick Barber II, an attorney representing King’s family, said Wednesday he was pleased to hear of the change.

“Clearly, there’s more than could have been done otherwise there wouldn’t have been something being done at this point,” Barber said. “It’s unfortunate that a life had to be lost in order for a gate to be erected, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Related: Brightline to add safety ambassadors, more signs at key crossings

Plans were made more than a year ago, when the city was preparing for quiet zone implementation, to have quad gates at the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Woolbright Road and Southeast 36th Avenue crossings.

The additional four locations came to fruition about a month ago, Livergood said. The city reran the quiet zone calculation and found that quad gates at two more intersections were needed to meet requirements — Southeast Fifth and 12th.

Livergood and Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency engineers examined the safety and financial issues. Ocean and Boynton Beach Boulevard rose to the top of the list for the quad gates based on pedestrian and vehicular activity, Livergood said.

“As a result of safety concerns at the crossings, we did two more than the two required,” Livergood said of the Ocean and Boynton Beach Boulevard locations.

The Palm Beach TPA, which is funded with state and federal transportation money, will pay for the four quad gates at each intersection. Construction should be complete within 60 days.