The U.S. Coast Guard has begun a test to see if having a bridge tender and communication at the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) bridge over the New River in Ft. Lauderdale will alleviate concerns raised over the impact of a passenger train.
The USCG has issued a notice of temporary deviation from regulations that allows the bridge to be in the down position no more than 60 minutes in any two-hour period, requires a full-time bridge tender with a VHF radio to communicate on channels 9 and 16, and requires access through a telephone with its number posted on signs at the bridge.
“This deviation will test a change to the drawbridge operation schedule to address the inability of the bridge owner, FEC, to operate the bridge under current regulations,” the USCG stated in its notice.
The test goes into effect today and runs until 6 a.m. on Oct. 16.
The bridge is 37 years old and has a vertical clearance of 4 feet at mean high water, requiring it to be open for nearly all marine traffic. It is currently kept open and only closes for train traffic, but the CFRs regulating this bridge permit it to be in the closed position, opening on signal for the passage of marine vessels.
The USCG is aiming to change the rules regulating the bridge before passenger rail begins. All Aboard Florida has proposed daily high-speed rail service from Miami to Orlando, requiring an additional 16 closings of this bridge over the river.
Ft. Lauderdale’s marine industry has objected to the additional closings, citing the length of time for a closing cycle (up to 20 minutes for a freight train) and the lack of a bridge tender. The bridge is operated remotely from an FEC facility in Jacksonville.
During the test, the bridge will be constantly tended, the tender will use marine radio or telephone to communicate with marine traffic, signs with contact details will be posted at the bridge, a log will be maintained recording bridge opening and closing times, green and red lights will signify if vessels can pass through the bridge, and the bridge cannot be closed more than 60 minutes in any 120-minute period, according to the USCG’s notice of deviation.
Marine traffic can communicate with the bridge tender on the telephone (305-889-5572) or on the radio on VHF Channel 9 or 16. FEC dispatch is 800-342-1131.
Mariners are encouraged to comment on how the test impacts their use of the river. The comment period is open for 90 days. Comment through www.regulations.gov, docket number USCG-2015-0271, via fax to 202-493-2251, or by mail to Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington DC 20590-0001.
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