Bridge tender may be added to ease backups in Martin County

A bridge tender could be stationed at the St. Lucie River drawbridge in Martin County to help decrease boater backups caused by passing Florida East Coast Railway trains.

Image of Florida East Coast railroad bridge at mile 7.4 at Stuart on display at front of auditorium at Blake Library in Stuart Thursday evening, November 13, 2014, during an information gathering session hosted by the United Coast Guard.   (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Image of Florida East Coast railroad bridge at mile 7.4 at Stuart on display at front of auditorium at Blake Library in Stuart Thursday evening, November 13, 2014, during an information gathering session hosted by the United Coast Guard. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

In a letter to Martin County officials this month, the U.S. Coast Guard said manning a similar span in Fort Lauderdale has been sucessful. Coast Guard officials said they are working with the railroad “to implement similar procedures for the St. Lucie River Bridge.”

The letter came in response to a request by Martin County officials. In a three-page letter to the Coast Guard last month, Deputy County Engineer Terry Rauth  called on the Coast Guard to require a bridge tender at the drawbridge, pointing to the increased rail traffic that All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger train service could bring to the trestle.

Rauth also called on the Coast Guard to require that the bridge be locked down for no more than 30 minutes every hour. The county pointed to its 15-month study of vessel traffic at the bridge, which was released Thursday, saying it was critical that Coast Guard ensure the waterway remain open to boat traffic “no less than 30 minutes of every hour.”

In its letter, the Coast Guard said it was weighing the traffic data along with the county’s request for “minimum open times.”

All Aboard’s Brightline service plans to run 32 trains a day — 16 round trips — on the Florida East Coast Railway between Miami and Orlando. Service is expected to start in 2017.