Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
May 8, 2021
In his Friday Notes to City Commissioners and others, Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin reported, “The City has been informed that Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) and First Coast Railroad (FCRR) officials have tentatively agreed to the proposed Stipulation of Parties (SOP) to provide for the re-opening of Alachua Street. Additional details will be provided as part of the City Commission consideration and requested approval of the proposed stipulation of parties (SOP) at the Jun 1 City Commission Regular Meeting.”
Included in the draft stipulation agreement are the following points:
- The proposed Alachua Street Crossing location will be an urban local road. The proposed Alachua Street Crossing location will be a two-lane urban local road with a sidewalk on the South side;
- The railroad will provide the following at the City’s expense:
- all necessary materials and install at the Alachua Street Crossing; automatic railroad grade crossing warning devices to include a control house/cabinet; flashing lights and gates; and RAILROAD pedestrian safety devices;
- signs and object markers on each side of the crossings;
- fencing parallel to Front Street to enhance pedestrian safety by channeling pedestrian travel to the permitted railroad-highway grade crossings between Alachua Street and Ash Street. The fencing height will be four feet above the ground line with a minimum required distance of six feet-eight inches from the nearest rail (i.e., nine feet from centerline of track) to the fence. The minimum distance of six feet-eight inches applies to all elements of the fence, including both fencing and fence pillars.
- curbing and bump out protection for the Alachua Street Crossing
- The City shall provide a perpetual easement for the placement and maintenance of the automatic railroad crossing warning devices, associated equipment, and control house for the Alachua Street Crossing
- Maintenance responsibilities for both the City and the railroad.
Should the FBCC approve this stipulated agreement, it will remain in effect for 5 years.
While the FDOT is funding the necessary safety improvements for the rail crossings at Centre and Ash Streets scheduled for this summer, the costs associated with opening the Alachua crossing would be borne by the City.
Opening the Alachua crossing will end more than 40 years of discussion, debate and inaction, despite calls from multiple City Commissions and many more citizens to open the crossing, which will provide improved traffic circulation downtown and promote business development.