Remember the many discussions among boaters last year concerning the proposed All Aboard Florida high speed trains? See http://cruisersnet.net/?p=143201. The addition of a full-time tender may be a solution, as reported in this article by Michael Turnbell in The Sun Sentinal.
For the first time in years, boaters have a full-time tender to communicate with at the New River railroad bridge in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
It’s part of a six-month test by the U.S. Coast Guard that, if successful, could ease boater concerns about All Aboard Florida, which plans to run 32 trains a day on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
The marine industry insists All Aboard Florida’s trains will keep the bridge down too long, choking access for boats and damaging a key industry in an area known as the yachting capital of the world.
A draft study by the Federal Railroad Administration found the new trains will have a negligible effect on boating. All Aboard Florida vowed to coordinate schedules with other trains, publish timetables and invest in new equipment to cut average crossing times from 18-20 minutes to 10-12 minutes.
The test will determine if having a tender present will improve the speed of the bridge’s opening and closing. It also will see if improved communication will allay boater concerns over when the bridge will be closed and for how long.
The Coast Guard said in a posted notice its new test “will promote equal usage of waterways and railroad for all parties involved.”
The New River bridge, built in the 1970s, is currently kept open for boats and only closes when a freight train passes — up to 14 times a day. But when the new high-speed passenger service starts in late 2016, the bridge would be required to close 16 additional times a day.
That is a problem for boaters because at high tide, the closed bridge sits about four feet above the water, making it hard for even a kayak to pass underneath.
Under the test, which will run through October 16, the bridge will be closed for not more than 60 minutes in any two-hour period.
“We’re excited to see how it works,” said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. “It’s been unpredictable so this should add more reliability for people who use the river.”
While the bridge is still controlled by operators in Jacksonville, Purcell said the new tender will be able to tell them to slow trains if a boat needs more time to make it through. Towboat operators hauling large yachts can be warned ahead of time when the bridge will be down. And the tender can tell dispatchers to more quickly raise the bridge once a train passes.
“Sometimes the bridge is currently shut when there is no train, or after the train passes, the bridge isn’t raised right away,” Purcell said.
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