POINT OF VIEW: Too many questions for northern Brightline expansion


Brightline has won an extension to issue tax-exempt “private activity bonds” bonds to finance its rail expansion to Orlando. There is a lot more to this high-speed rail proposal than what has been reported. (One thing that is very rarely reported is that a second set of tracks has to be added). The Brightline plan is to run 16 trains a day (about one every half-hour). This is going to be extremely upsetting to vehicular traffic crossing the tracks between trains. But the most upsetting, unsettling and damaging activity will be the process of adding the second set of tracks at the vehicular intersections.

RELATED: Editorial: Allow Brightline to issue tax-free bonds for next expansion

At many intersections, the rails are located considerably higher than the surface of the crossing road, requiring the construction of a gentle slope from the road surface to the rails and back down again.

The peak of the road where the single track is right now will have to be widened by 8-10 feet in an east-west direction. Why? To accommodate the second track. That means tearing up the roadway pavement, the concrete curbs and drainage ditches, perhaps even the concrete drains and underground drainage pipes. To preserve the slope of the approach, the start of the slope is going to have to be moved east or west or both. This could have a serious impact on the approaching roadway itself, maybe even causing it to have to be re-routed. This is especially true when several roads intersect right at the start of the slope. Good examples of this are Indiantown Road in Jupiter and River Road in Tequesta.

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A given intersection will be closed to vehicular traffic for several weeks at a time. This can be much more than just a nuisance. It can be very dangerous. Consider this: ambulances may have to detour from the shortest and quickest path to a hospital, certainly prolonging pain and agony, and perhaps even resulting in death; school buses may have to change schedules quite often, resulting in students’ disorientation; most of these intersections are in the hurricane evacuation path; and emergency vehicles may have to make wide detours to arrive at an accident scene. The list goes on.

There are many questions that have to be answered satisfactorily before all this chaos can begin. For example:

  • Can Brightline present detailed modification plans for each of these 100+ intersections and large bridges?
  • Does Brightline plan to submit these to Florida Department of Transportation? If not, to whom?
  • Has Brightline generated a schedule for closing for each of these intersections and bridges? Does it include a guaranteed start and finish date?
  • What is the fine for missing the schedule and to whom is it paid?
  • Who pays for all these modifications? The town? The county? The state of Florida? Brightline?
  • Can Brightline demonstrate that once these modifications are underway, that they be completed even if Brightline goes bankrupt in this effort?

ROBERT CANNON, JUPITER



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