One of the biggest concerns over All Aboard Florida eventually running their trains from Miami to Orlando has been the nightmare traffic jams that potentially might come with commuter trains running all day. And now we’re about to get the first taste of that, as the private rail service is going to begin the first phase of upgrading 185 tracks that will run between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Archer Western, one of the largest builders of rail and mass-transit projects in the United States, has been contracted to improve the 65 miles of rails.
“[Archer] will provide construction-management and general-contracting services for the project, which include safety improvements and upgrades, track work, rail signalization, and structural construction,” spokeswoman Jennifer Reich tells New Times via email. The contractor will also be installing quiet zones where applicable and build a new Running Repair Facility in West Palm Beach.
The quiet zones include safety features such as newly installed gates and lights so that trains can pass through the area without sounding their horns (except for cases of emergencies).
Anti-All Aboard Florida groups, such as Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE Florida), have spoken out over the increase in noise and traffic that the trains are apparently going to bring as they zip through the state beginning in 2016.
The company that owns All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Industries, has said it plans on running 32 trains a day. Late last year, the company had an environmental impact statement conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration. The FRA says it found no significant impact on the environmental and related impacts of constructing and operating the rail service. Another statement is pending.
Still, even with growing opposition, All Aboard Florida says it's moving forward with its project.
“Modernizing the rail infrastructure is central to All Aboard Florida’s new rail operations and to our commitment to public safety,” said Mike Reininger, president of All Aboard Florida, in a news release Wednesday. “Archer Western is one of the top firms in the industry and brings to this project a depth of experience and history of results unparalleled in rail operations.”
All Aboard Florida, which has invested $1.5 billion to modernize the historic Henry Flagler rail corridor, says the improvements are needed for its passenger rail trains. The company has also coordinated with local officials to have the 100 construction personnel who will work on the improvements adhere to a preset work schedule to minimize the local impact.
Construction will begin in mid-June, with the area of U.S. 1 and Dixie Highway beginning clearing by the end of May.