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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Sen. Schumer on rail bridges: FRA should audit safety inspections, add inspectors


U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently called on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to audit the safety inspections of two rail bridges running along the Hudson River in Orange County, N.Y., and one rail bridge running over the Rondout River in Ulster County, N.Y.

Owned by CSX Transportation, the three bridges are located on lines used to move hazardous materials, including crude oil, said Schumer in a press release. Although CSX inspects the bridges each year, a federal audit is needed because the structures have crumbling concrete foundations, he said.

The senator also urged the FRA to increase the number of federal bridge safety inspectors nationwide. Currently, there are only seven inspectors who oversee audits of all of the privately-owned rail bridges across the nation — a group only large enough to audit 1 percent of the structures in any given year, Schumer said. There is one inspector assigned to more than 3,000 privately owned rail bridges in New York State, he added.

Because of an increasing number of freight trains carrying crude across the region, it's critical that communities are reassured that the rail bridges in their towns and cities are safe and structurally sound, said Schumer.

"Many train bridges across the region are deteriorating, including two in Cornwall where the concrete foundation has eroded, vertical cracks have emerged, rebar has become exposed, and bolts that have become loose or have fallen off altogether," he said. "Any problem with their structural integrity could lead to a disaster of epic proportions and we must do all we can to avoid that nightmare scenario."

Safety is CSX's highest priority and the Class I invests more than $1 billion annually to maintain its infrastructure, said CSX spokesperson Melanie Cost in an email. The railroad inspects all of its bridges at least once per year, often more frequently, and the tracks that cross the bridges are inspected visually several times per week, she said.

"While the appearance of our bridges sometimes does not reflect their structural integrity, CSX maintains its bridges in compliance with all federal regulations and company safety standards," said Cost. "We will continue to do so in the future."

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More News from 1/2/2015