County engineer highlights safety concerns with high-speed rail in Martin County

Martin County engineer: the Brightline expansion can’t be stopped, but it should be safe. (WPEC)

While Treasure Coast leaders are opposed to the Brightline expansion, many realize it’s going to happen anyway. The Director of Engineering for Martin County, Terry Routh, said, “we just want it to be as safe as possible.”

Safety has been their main concern all along but now that the expansion is in place, Routh said she just wants to make sure what happened further South doesn’t happen here.

Right now, Brightline trains go 80 miles per hour from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale. With an expansion to Orlando in the works, that train will be barreling through the Treasure Coast at 110 miles per hour. To get through Stuart, the train will have to go around a sharp curve just over the Old Roosevelt Bridge.

“There have been two derailments on that curve historically. Freight trains have derailed,” said Routh.

To make sure that doesn’t happen with a Brightline train, it has to slow down to 40 miles per hour.

“It’s really important to have all the safety features in place so that the train will automatically slow down and not just depend on the engineer,” said Routh.

Routh is also concerned that the speed of the train will cause more impact on the structure of the bridges, especially since they’re so old. In addition to the age, the Old Roosevelt Bridge has only one track, not two.

“With only one track here, the freight and the passenger rail are going to have to either pass each other, they’re going to have to slow down, they’re going to block traffic,” said Routh.

Causing a backup for drivers and boaters.

“With the additional trains, they’ll (the bridges) be opening and closing more often,” said Routh.

She continued in other areas, “bridges were in the down position, so the boaters and the barges could not get through.”

Ideally, she would like to see a new bridge and All Aboard Florida to take all the precautions necessary, even if it’s not required.

The rail line is not required to have sealed gates at the tracks unless the train is going over 80 miles per hour. Routh said by the time the train gets to downtown Stuart, it’s supposed to be at that speed and slowing down. However, she said sealing off the tracks when a train is coming could save lives.

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