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Schumer Says Having Only Three Bridge Safety Specialists Puts New Yorkers Increasingly At Risk; Inspectors Are Responsible For Bridges Not Only In New York, But Over A Dozen Other States; While Railroad Companies Are Responsible To Fix Their Own Bridges, Fed Inspectors Have The Nearly Impossible Task To Audit & Inspect Hundreds Of Privately Owned NY Bridges

Schumer Reveals NYS Bridges Could Be At Risk If They Are Not Inspected & Audited: In The Capital Region, There Are 281 Rail Bridges; In WNY, 487; In CNY, 261; In The Rochester-Finger Lakes, 232; In The Hudson Valley, 307; In The Southern Tier, 446; In The North Country, 144 

Schumer FRA: Hire More Rail Bridge Inspectors For New York ASAP

On a conference call with reporters today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer launched his push to increase the number of federal railroad bridge safety specialists nationwide. Schumer’s call comes nearly two weeks after a portion of a railroad bridge collapsed onto a busy street in downtown Syracuse. Schumer said this incident sheds even more light on the fact that only six specialists are tasked with overseeing rail bridge inspections & audits for the Federal Railroad Administration.

“After a portion of a railroad bridge collapsed onto a street in Syracuse, it should serve as an eye-opening wake up call for the Federal Railroad Administration that only three people are responsible for auditing 3,000 privately-owned rail bridges that span across New York State – on top of being responsible for all of the rail bridges in over a dozen of other states. It does not take a rail safety expert to know the math simply doesn’t add up. The fact that safety concerns could be slipping through the cracks makes it clear as day that we must increase the number of inspectors and rail specialists that audit these critical links nationwide,” said Senator Schumer. “I will continue my push for the FRA to hire more train bridge inspectors so we can ensure that private companies are doing their job and keeping these bridges in top-notch shape. Simply put, we should not be waiting for bridges to collapse and fall onto our streets to do something.”

According to Schumer, only 1% of the 70,000 to 100,000 privately-owned train bridges across the entire country are audited in any given year. In New York State, there are only three specialists assigned to over 3,000 privately owned train bridges, and the specialists are also responsible for bridges in over a dozen other states. Schumer said that, given dense caseload, it is nearly impossible for these federal specialists to address all of the potential safety concerns surrounding these bridges and, as a result, safety issues across New York State and the country may be slipping through the cracks. Many of these bridges are owned by companies like CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific and used predominantly for freight shipping, including the transport of hazardous material and crude oil. However, under current law, while public roadway bridges must be inspected at least every other year—a task which in New York State falls to the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)—privately-owned railroad bridges do not have this same requirement. Instead, train companies like CSX or Norfolk Southern are required to self-inspect their own train bridges once every year and are subject to oversight by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). For this reason and the fact that these bridges crisscross popular local roads traveled by thousands of New Yorkers daily, Schumer said the safety of the rail bridges across Upstate New York is a priority and, therefore, announced he will continue to push for an increase in FRA rail bridge inspector staff. Schumer said that federal inspectors are imperative in ensuring that private railroad companies are keeping bridges safe and there must be more manpower to ensure bridges across Upstate New York are not deteriorating or at risk of collapsing.

New York has provided a vital geographic rail link between the Midwest and East coast ports for centuries, in addition to moving thousands of passengers by rail each day. As a result, the rail bridges that carry these freight and passenger trains over other roadways and bodies of water on a daily basis are often carrying heavier shipments than they were designed to with increasing frequency. Schumer said this means these bridges are likely to be deteriorating at a faster rate and, therefore, are in desperate need of inspection and auditing to ensure the safety of passenger trains and the communities through which freight trains run. However, Schumer said, despite the clear need to keep up with the maintenance and inspection of these train bridges, there is simply not enough manpower on the federal level to inspect and audit these bridges on schedule. That is why Schumer is pushing to increase the number of federal railroad bridge safety specialists nationwide.

Schumer explained that the FRA plays a vital oversight role, ensuring that the owners of these bridges are investing adequately in their maintenance and following the required load restrictions. However, currently, there are too few Bridge Safety Specialists employed by the FRA to properly monitor and audit the entire system. Schumer said the limited number of Bridge Safety Specialists and the overall national inventory of rail bridges raises significant concerns about the specialists’ ability to properly audit the bridges and ensure that they meet design and engineering standards.

During the call, Schumer revealed the number of rail bridges in each region of New York State, and said that these rail bridges are potentially not being audited due to the lack of inspectors and therefore at risk. According to the New York State Department of Transportation, there are roughly 3,000 rail bridges across New York State, including 2,158 in Upstate New York alone.

·         In the Capital Region, there are 281 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In Central New York, there are 261 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In Western New York, there are 487 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In the Rochester Finger Lakes, there are 232 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In the Southern Tier, there are 446 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In the Hudson Valley, there are 307 privately-owned rail bridges.

·         In the North Country, there are 144 privately-owned rail bridges.