Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
 
Join Metro Jacksonville and get in on the conversation today!Already have an account?  Sign In

Author Topic: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail  (Read 384 times)

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2338
Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« on: January 28, 2013, 09:33:55 PM »
Per the Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board:

Some grousing has begun on who is going to pay for TriRail access on CSX and AAF quiet zones. It seems everyone wants the service, no one wants to pay.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/editorials/fl-editorial-rail2-dl-20130128,0,5493508.story



Good news on the rail front: After 15 years, Tri-Rail will finally get to schedule its commuter trains and maintain the 72 miles of track it shares with CSX freight trains. As a result, the commuter rail line should be able to improve its on-time performance and operate its trains more efficently between Miami International Airport and Mangonia Park in Palm Beach County.

Now the bad news: All Aboard Florida, the privately funded venture that promises to create fast rail service between Miami and Orlando now says communities will have to pony up beaucoup bucks to silence loud train whistles along the line.

Both developments mean more future tax money from the pockets of South Floridians, who simply can't afford it.

On Tri-Rail, the recent agreement between the state Department of Transportation and CSX Transportation is a big deal for commuters. Right now, when scheduling the tracks, CSX gives priority to its freight trains, slowing down commuter trains and eroding public confidence that the line will get you there on time.

To make it happen, the state agreed to pay $11.5 million a year. But the deal lasts only seven years. After that, the counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade must find a way to pay for the partnership. Problem is, the Florida Legislature won't give Tri-Rail a path to raising money, having nixed a proposed tax on rental cars. So in six short years, the counties will be staring down a combined $30 million hit to their general funds.

Then there is All Aboard Florida, the new inter-city train service that began with a promising start, but now seems headed down the wrong track.

The initiative, which would be the closest thing to high-speed rail service between Miami and Orlando, won praise because the firm developing it has eschewed public funds.

Unfortunately, Florida East Coast Industries, its owner, failed to include the costs of "quiet zones," which are essential to boosting safety and minimizing noise at railroad crossings.

Federal regulations require engineers to sound their horns before reaching a crossing, and at decibel levels that rival the noise of a nearby jackhammer, the wail of additional train whistles won't go unnoticed by residents living near the tracks.

The municipalities could seek federal noise-abatement grants to pay for new gates, lights or raised medians to offset the need for train whistles, but why should they? The pledge was to use private funding. There is no justification to back off that promise now.

To keep the peace and quiet, local government officials should hold out for All Aboard Florida officials to make good on their promise to rely solely on private funds to build the needed second track and pay the costs of curbing train whistle noise at local railroad crossings along the corridor.

South Florida needs improvements in its current commuter-rail service and a new intercity rail system that promises to bring economic and tourist benefits to both Central and South Florida. The challenge is to make sure local taxpayers don't get stuck paying bills that also benefit private business and the entire state.





thelakelander

  • Metro Jacksonville
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 23033
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 09:42:02 PM »
What is the Sun-sentinel  smoking?  Under no circumstances should FEC or any rail line that's been around before these cities were developed should be paying for quiet zones.  Even with AAF, the FEC will have a small fraction of the rail traffic that was on it during the early 20th century.  I'm sure if FEC had their way, they'd simply close most of the crossings instead of paying for quiet zones for people who willingly moved next to an active rail line.  This is as silly as moving next to an active airport and complaining about an increase in jet traffic.

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2338
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 09:59:45 PM »
Lake,

I couldn't believe this when I read it as well.  FECI has already said they are paying for ALL signal relocations, but the law is clear that the municipality that demands a quiet zone has to pay for the upgrades to support it.

I am all for being a good corporate neighbor, but this piece really surprised me.

Personally I have lived next to several commuter rail operations and the only horns I notice is the full blast they would give when a car or pedestrian goes around the gates. The crossing horns for the freights don't even register after a few days.

Ocklawaha

  • Phd. Ferroequinology
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10401
  • Monster of Mobility! Ocklawaha is Robert Mann
    • LIGHT RAIL JACKSONVILLE
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 10:04:13 PM »
The quiet zones require reconstruction of the crossing, all four quadrants gated and medians extended nearly to the rails on each side. As far as funding goes look for something between $250,000 and $500,000 per crossing. The railroads DO sometimes get involved in crossing protection, but generally not without federal, state or local money. There is also the game of closing redundant crossings in which case the municipalities are rewarded by most railroads 5k m/l per crossing closed.

thelakelander

  • Metro Jacksonville
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 23033
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 10:21:37 PM »
I'm sure they'd object to closing half of their crossings but going that route, they'd make a little cash.

Jason

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4313
  • I am the man in the box...
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2013, 09:43:49 AM »
Quote
Federal regulations require engineers to sound their horns before reaching a crossing, and at decibel levels that rival the noise of a nearby jackhammer, the wail of additional train whistles won't go unnoticed by residents living near the tracks.

You live near railroad tracks and then bitch about the trains being too loud.....  sounds like a familiar trend around here, but in Jax they move near an ariport and then bitch about the planes...

Besides, commuter trains almost exclusively run during the day.  They won't be waking you up at night.

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2338
Re: Wanted: Smarter way to pay for rail
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2013, 06:58:16 PM »
More grousing down south about the expected horn blowing by the new AAF trains. But the article seems to be more focused on neighborhood capital improvements than horn blowing in Boca Raton. Bait and switch journalism.

Per the Sun-Sentinel:

BOCA RATON—
Improving neighborhoods along north Dixie Highway has been on the city's to-do list for more than a decade, with no sign it's moving forward.

But a number of the residents are planning on making a case at Monday's City Council workshop that a $500,000 project that would put a hedge and plants around the train tracks there should get pushed to the top of the agenda — because of what's coming down the track.

The neighborhood is along the Florida East Coast Railway. And a new privately financed service called All Aboard Florida is getting ready to run more than 30 passenger trains a day on these tracks east of I-95 starting in 2015. That's in addition to the 10 daily freight trains that already use it.

With train engineers required to sound the horns four times — two long blasts followed by a short and then a long blast — about 1,000 feet before each crossing, neighbors are going to hear a sound comparable to a jackhammer or a jet about tens of thousands more times a year at each of the 10 crossings in Boca Raton.

Mike Krones, 65, said enough is enough. He's summoning residents from his Boca Woods, Chatham Hills, Villa Rica and Winfield Park to make a stand in front of the City Council.

"We're digging in," he said. "They are fixing up Mizner Park, they are fixing up North Federal Highway, but they haven't done anything for us in between."

But Mike Woika, assistant manager for the city, said he doubts that the $500,000 project that would put in trees and shrubbery along the train tracks would do much to muffle the noise from the train whistles. Beautifying the area along Dixie Highway between 20th and 32nd streets has been pushed back a number of times because of the limited funding available.

"It's one of many capital improvement projects," he said.

Neighbors point out that the city could also make improvements that would qualify the area as a quiet zone. But that could involve improved crossing gates and raised medians that can come with a hefty price tag.

These neighbors think it's about time the city made the investment. Driving along Dixie Highway, the landscaping comes to an abrupt end at the south corner of 20th Street.

Krones, who works in real estate and has lived in Boca Woods for 20 years, said that the median sales price for 54 sales in his single-family home subdivision and the three others in this corridor was $181,000, which represents a significant drop in value. Zillow, a real estate information website, reports that the median home sale price in Boca Raton was $210,000, down from $270,000 in 2009.

And he said that the signs are even more worrisome for the area.

"One investor bought 12 houses," he said, estimating that 60 percent of the neighborhood has become rentals, judging by information he gleaned from the Palm Beach County Property Assessor's website.

Elly Zanin, 67, a retired physical education curriculum coordinator for Broward County Schools, said that she's been getting concerned about some of the businesses that have located around her neighborhood of 21 years. A massage parlor and a gun shop are among them, she said.

"It's not something you would want in a neighborhood that you would want to attract people to live here, " she said. "Aesthetics are important."