By Steve Plunkett

Two years after the air horns on the Camino Real bridge started blaring every 20 minutes, neighbors are enjoying the sounds of silence.

“What a pleasure,” said Tom Tyghem, who lives on the Intracoastal Waterway two doors south of the bridge and spent several thousand dollars for a lawyer to pursue his noise complaint.

Having complained in 2022 to the Palm Beach County Engineer’s Office and to then-County Commissioner Robert Weinroth without success, residents along the Intracoastal turned to state Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman.

County officials had maintained that they were bound by rules from the Florida Department of Transportation and the U.S. Coast Guard to sound the horn every time the bridge went up. But Gossett-Seidman secured documents from those agencies saying otherwise and presented her case to the full County Commission in October.

In response, the county hired outside consultant Kimley-Horn and Associates to evaluate the situation, and on April 11, County Engineer David Ricks notified county commissioners that he had changed the horn-blowing procedure.

“A bridge horn sounding will ONLY be used when the vessel requesting passage uses a horn or when deemed necessary by the bridge tender for emergencies,” Ricks said in an email accompanying the Kimley-Horn study.

Commissioner Marci Woodward, who had arranged meetings with Gossett-Seidman, County Administrator Verdenia Baker and other county officials, relayed the news to her South County constituents.

“I am confident that the new procedures will strike a balance between the safety of boaters and the quality of life for residents living near the bridge,” she said.
Gossett-Seidman, who said she “probably spent a hundred hours” investigating the rules, empathized with residents living near the bridge and with The Boca Raton resort, which called the alarm “a distraction to our Pool Club and restaurant guests.”

“That horn was so loud that people would literally jump,” she said. “I’m very happy and grateful that the people get their peace back.”

Gossett-Seidman said the bridge’s neighbors had come to her because they knew she was a boater and would know which agencies to contact.

“Everyone who’s a boater gets it,” she said.

The county consultants measured the sound levels at the Camino Real bridge and other county-operated spans at Palmetto Park Road, Ocean Avenue in Lantana and Donald Ross Road in north Palm Beach County. The single, electric horn at Palmetto Park made 17.2% less noise than Camino Real’s dual air horns, they said.
They also determined that the Coast Guard is the authority having jurisdiction over Intracoastal marine traffic and that it allowed a choice of ways to request bridge openings: by sound, visual signals or marine radio.

Coast Guard rules allow a boater to request a bridge opening with one long blast of the boat’s horn followed by a short blast, which the bridge tender then acknowledges with the same signal.

But most vessel operators ask for an opening via channel 9 on their VHF marine radio.

The neighbors started complaining about the horns’ noise in 2022 after what they said were decades of non-use. County officials offered no explanation for why the horns were not used previously.

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