The default position for the Florida East Coast Railway bridge across the New River in Ft. Lauderdale is in the up position. Many in the marine industry worry what new passenger rail service could mean for boat traffic on the river. TOM HUDSON
The Boat Business And A Fort Lauderdale Railroad Bridge
By TOM HUDSON November 1, 2015
Talking with people who make their living based on boats and many quickly mention what they think is the biggest threat to their livelihood — a bridge.
That single bridge crosses the New River near downtown Fort Lauderdale. Florida East Coast Railway operates the bridge, which handles freight traffic now.
However, with All Aboard Florida’s plans to run passenger rail service from Miami to Orlando over the same tracks, South Florida’s marine industry worries what that rail traffic could mean for the flow of its business on the water.
For the better part of two years All Aboard Florida and representatives of South Florida’s marine industry have been talking about how to deal with this pinch point where the boating business and the effort to build passenger rail service come together.
The current bridge was built in 1978, although a railroad bridge has crossed the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale since 1912. It’s a single leaf bascule drawbridge that runs 60 feet shore-to-shore.
When not in use, the bridge defaults to its up position, allowing marine traffic to float upriver to the many marinas lining the shore of the South Fork of the New River or down river to the Intracoastal.
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November 6, 2015
The marine industry and the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger train are making peace over the New River bridge in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
A test by the Coast Guard has proved successful in trimming the time the railroad bridge needs to be closed, allowing both boats and trains to share the river — at least for now, leaders said.
Later, the marine industry would like to see an elevated bridge built over the river for the passenger trains to use instead, said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.
“Guess what? I think we’ve worked it out,” Purcell told a surprised audience at a boat show event attended by All Aboard Florida’s president Michael Reininger.
“The test has gone incredibly well,” Reininger added in an interview. “The test worked.”
At issue is a 1970s bridge over the New River that is kept open for boats and closes when freight trains pass — up to 14 times per day. All Aboard Florida plans to use the tracks when it starts high-speed passenger service next year, requiring the bridge be closed 16 extra times per day.