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Brightline to begin 110 mph, full-speed tests along rail corridor through Martin, St. Lucie counties

NewsBrightline to begin 110 mph, full-speed tests along rail corridor through Martin, St. Lucie counties

For six weeks starting Oct. 17, Brightline will begin testing trains at full speed — 110 mph — through parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

The higher-speed railroad has been conducting daily tests through the Trespansure Cospanst since Jspannuspanry, sending its trains through the area at slower speeds, preparing to extend passenger service from West Palm Beach to Orlando. But the company’s upcoming tests mark the first time its trains will go full speed here.

However, the trains will open up to full throttle only along an 11-mile stretch of the rail corridor through Martin and St. Lucie counties, between Jensen Beach and about two miles south of downtown Fort Pierce. 

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The stretch includes nine railroad crossings:

St. Lucie County

  • Savannah Road, Waterplant Road
  • Midway Road
  • Walton Road
  • Riverview Drive

Martin County

  • County Line Road
  • Skyline Drive
  • Pitchford Landing
  • Jensen Beach Boulevard
  • Palmetto Drive

Trains will be running at about 60 mph until they reach the test areas. They will accelerate to 110, then slow back down to about 60 mph, said Brightline spokesperson Katie Mitzner said. Tests will be conducted 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, she said.

Mitzner did not say how many test trains would run each day.

Safety a concern

Brightline trains, which already provide passenger service between West Palm Beach and Miami at up to 79 mph, have killed dozens of pedestrians and drivers — usually after passing under lowered railroad crossings — since its service began there in 2017.

During the new 110 mph tests, Brightline will have special safety measures in place, according to a news release. The railroad Brightline will have flaggers stationed at each of the nine crossings where the full-speed trains will pass. 

Mitzner said local law enforcement would be stationed at the affected crossings with the flaggers. Local officials, however, said they had no plans to be at the crossings. 

About a month ago, Brightline informed the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office of its plans to test trains at full speed starting this month, Sheriff Ken Mascara said. But the Sheriff’s Office won’t supplement Brightline’s crossing guards by stationing deputies at crossings, he said.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said he was unaware Brightline would conduct full-speed tests starting this month. No deputies are scheduled to be stationed at crossings, he said.

Port St. Lucie Police Department has no plans to station officers at crossings during the tests, spokesperson Sgt. John Dellacroce said. But he did encourage increased caution.

“Our message to the community is just to remind motorists and pedestrians to be cautious around the railroad tracks,” Dellacroce said. “Obey all traffic laws, and don’t stop on the tracks or drive around the arms when they’re down.”

Improvements being made by Brightline include new crossing gates, signal systems, pedestrian gates, and pavement markings; and quad gates or medians at all crossings to prevent drivers from getting around lowered gates, according to the release.

As a result of a lawsuit settlement with Indian River County, Brightline is making $31.6 million in improvements to the county’s 32 crossings.

More full-speed tests will be conducted on other stretches of the corridor, Brightline’s statement said, but it is unclear when or where those next tests would happen. 

Scheduled passenger service between Miami and Orlando, span $4.5 billion project, is slated to begin in early 2023.

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