MIAMI – The Coast Guard intends to issue an updated temporary deviation from the operating schedule that governs the Florida East Coast Railroad Bridge, across the Okeechobee Waterway, mile 7.41 at Stuart, Fla., to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, Aug. 11.
This deviation is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m., Aug. 15 until 11:59 p.m., Dec. 17, 2023.
In anticipation of a significant increase in railway activity across the FEC Railroad Bridge, the Coast Guard is considering changing the operating regulation for the FEC Railroad Bridge to allow the drawbridge to operate on a more predictable schedule, to be open for navigation at least 50 percent of the time during daytime operations (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and to allow for reasonable usage of competing modes of transportation.
“The Coast Guard is adhering to the regulatory process established by Congress for the regulation of bridges and waterways, and we will continue to be transparent in the process,” said Rear Adm. Douglas M. Schofield, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District. “We are engaged with the many stakeholders who have a vested interest in the final rulemaking for a bridge operating schedule, which includes the boating public, elected officials who represent the constituents in the communities most likely to be impacted, as well as Brightline and Florida East Coast Railway, amongst others.”
Coast Guard Sector Miami will also announce the updated temporary deviation in the weekly Local Notice to Mariners, via a Broadcast Notice to Mariners, and a Marine Safety Information Bulletin.
This will be the second temporary deviation for the FEC Railroad Bridge at Stuart, Fla. The first, published in June, allowed the Coast Guard the opportunity to collect preliminary data on the waterway usage, freight train schedules, and bridge opening and closing periods. The Coast Guard is also working to contract a third party to conduct an independent navigation study to gather official data on waterway usage over a period of 20 weeks.
The operating regulation for the adjacent NW Dixie Highway Bridge has been removed from this revised temporary deviation and will be modified under separate rulemaking to allow it to operate in concert with the FEC Railroad Bridge.
The Coast Guard will accept comments on the revised temporary deviation for a period of 60 days to allow stakeholders an opportunity to provide input or feedback. Comments and related material may be submitted on www.regulations.gov, identified by docket number USCG-2022-0222, and must be submitted by Oct. 15.
Temporary deviations are implemented before the rulemaking process to test potential drawbridge schedules and to allow the Coast Guard to analyze impacts to waterway users and competing modes of transportation before a final bridge operating schedule is promulgated. This revised temporary deviation and the results of the independent navigation study will further inform the eventual rulemaking to establish a permanent drawbridge operating schedule.
The Coast Guard is required by law to regulate drawbridge schedules. Changes to drawbridge operating schedules may be made through the federal rulemaking process or through temporary deviations. Temporary deviations are implemented before the rulemaking process in order to test potential drawbridge schedules, to allow the Coast Guard to analyze impacts to the waterway and competing modes of transportation. The Coast Guard district commander maintains the statutory and regulatory authority to implement changes to drawbridge schedules. The district commander may initiate a temporary deviation to a drawbridge operating schedule for up to 180 days to test a proposed operating schedule, prior to initiating a rulemaking.
Media with questions may contact Coast Guard Seventh District public affairs at (305) 415-6680, or in writing at email@example.com.
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