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Summer closings set for downtown Vero rail crossings

STORY BY GEORGE ANDREASSI (Week of May 19, 2022)

Brightline plans to close the railroad crossing at westbound 20th Street (Route 60 west) from May 31 through June 20 for installation of new safety equipment for high-speed passenger trains, then work on the other downtown Vero Beach crossings throughout the summer.

Brightline anticipates completing improvements at eight Vero Beach railroad crossings – from 17th Street to Aviation Boulevard – by Sept. 25, hoping to complete the disruptive work before seasonal residents begin returning in the fall.

As part of its effort to connect Orlando and Miami with limited stops and faster-than-driving commute times, Brightline is spending $2.7 billion to upgrade the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between West Palm Beach and Cocoa and build new tracks between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport.

The rail company plans to commence high-speed passenger service between Orlando and South Florida in 2023 with 32 trains per day zipping through Indian River County at up to 110 mph.

Brightline settled a long-running legal and political struggle with Indian River County in June 2021 by agreeing to construct $31.6 million worth of safety measures at the county’s 32 railroad crossings and along publicly accessible sections of the tracks.

Downtown Vero Beach businesses and patrons will face railroad crossing closures and detours throughout the summer.

Starting May 31, motorists traveling westbound on SR 60 West/20th Street will be directed to travel north on 11th Avenue to 21st Street, travel west on 21st Street to 14th Avenue and south on 14th Avenue to 20th Street, Brightline said in a construction advisory.

After completing construction on SR 60 West, Brightline contractors intend to move to the eastbound 19th Place railroad crossing on July 5 and finish work on July 23.

Next up, Brightline contractors are set to start work on the Aviation Boulevard railroad crossing on July 16 and complete the job on July 30.

Railroad crossings at 17th Street, 23rd Street, 14th Avenue and 26th Street will also be upgraded for high-speed passenger trains in August, with all four under construction between Aug. 9 and Aug. 18.

Brightline plans to start construction on the 17th Street railroad crossing on Aug. 2 and finish work by Aug. 18.

Meanwhile, Brightline scheduled construction on the railroad crossings at 23rd Street, 14th Avenue and 26th Street to start on Aug. 9 and be completed by Aug. 27.

The final downtown railroad crossing – 21st Street – will be under construction from Sept. 6 through Sept. 25, Brightline’s construction advisory says.

In Gifford, the railroad crossing at 43rd Street will be closed for reconstruction from May 19 through May 27, with traffic being detoured to the 45th Street crossing.

In South Vero, Brightline plans to close the Highland Drive railroad crossing for reconstruction from June 13 through June 29. Traffic will be detoured to 9th Street.

Brightline has also ramped up construction in Sebastian, where the railroad crossing at Barber Street was closed last Friday (May 13) and will reopen Monday (May 23). Traffic is being detoured to Schuman Drive.

Earlier in May, Brightline closed railroad crossings at 99th Street and 85th Street.