$10 million for quiet zones cash tucked into state spending planby John Kennedy | April 27th, 2014
House and Senate budget negotiators agreed Sunday to create a $10 million grant program to pay for railroad crossing upgrades needed in Palm Beach County and elsewhere in anticipation of the passenger rail project All Aboard Florida.
The Senate earlier proposed the spending for the so-called quiet zones. But its fate was uncertain until Sunday when the House signed-off on the plan amid talks aimed at settling a $75 billion state budget for 2014-15.
Elected officials from throughout the coastal areas of Palm Beach County, working largely through the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, had asked the state for help the work needed.
The express private service would run from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But the added 32 trains a day have residents and business owners near the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks worried about noise, traffic congestion and boating delays.
The $2.5 billion rail project – whose price tag recently spiked – is already controversial.
While the quiet zone provision was tucked into the Senate budget by Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, Senate Budget Chief Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Sunday reiterated that the spending should not be taken as support for the project.
“I haven’t come around to that,” Negron said. “There’s support in the Legislature for quiet zones so there’s money…but it’s not money I personally advocated for. There is agreement on the amount.”