SCHUMER ANNOUNCES FRA WILL PUSH RAILROAD COMPANIES TO SHARE INFORMATION ON THE STATE OF RAIL BRIDGES ACROSS NY WITH PASSENGERS & COMMUNITIES – SCHUMER SAYS COMMUNITIES DESERVE TO KNOW IF 3,000 PLUS TRAIN BRIDGES IN NYS, SOME OF WHICH ARE NOW CARRYING DANGEROUS CRUDE OIL TRAINS, ARE SAFE AND STRUCTURALLY SOUND
Schumer Previously Revealed There Is Only 1 Fed Railroad Inspector For All 3,000 Train Bridges In NYS – While Fed Inspector Has Impossible Task of Auditing All Privately Owned NY Bridges, Railroad Companies Are Responsible For Fixing Their Own Bridges
Trains Cross These Bridges Every Day, Carrying Passengers & Freight, Which Includes Dangerous Materials and Crude Oil – Schumer Says Increasing The Amount Of Federal Railroad Bridge Inspectors For Auditing Tracks Should Be A Main Priority, But Railroad Companies Have Responsibility to Keep Public Informed Of Bridge Conditions
Schumer: FRA Call Is Step In Right Direction, But More Inspectors Are Needed To Ensure NYS Train Bridges Are Up To Snuff
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has taken a step in the right direction in increasing rail bridge safety by urging railroad companies to provide the public and Congress with timely information when concerns arise regarding the state of railroad bridges around New York State. While the FRA must audit rail bridges around the country, rail companies are responsible for fixing their own privately owned rail bridges. As a result, Schumer said they must be willing to share information with local leaders and residents when the structural integrity of a rail bridge is in question. Schumer said this is especially important given the fact that merely 1 percent 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 is only one specialist assigned to over 3,000 privately owned train bridges, and that specialist is also responsible for bridges in 13 other states. This makes auditing every bridge in order to address potential safety concerns surrounding these bridges a nearly impossible task. As a result, Schumer said, it is likely safety issues across New York State may be slipping through the cracks. While Schumer will continue to fight for additional train bridge inspectors, FRA’s announcement that they have urged railroad companies to be more transparent is a positive step in the right direction.
In April, Schumer launched his push to increase the number of federal railroad bridge safety specialists nationwide, in addition to citing the fact that railroad companies must do their part to keep bridges safe by providing timely information on the state of rail bridges in question. Schumer said the FRA’s push to have rail companies share information with passengers, local leaders and Congress is a step in the right direction to ensure all train bridges in New York State are up to snuff.
“The FRA’s effort to hold railroad companies accountable for sharing information with local communities on the state of rail bridges is a laudable goal, and a welcome step in the right direction. But we still must do more. It is truly alarming that only one person is responsible for auditing 3,000 privately owned rail bridges in New York. So I will continue aggressively pushing to secure additional funding to hire more train-bridge inspectors to ensure that private companies are doing their job and keeping these bridges in top-notch shape,” said Schumer. “We must not wait for a derailment or a horrific collapse to do something, rather we must take action now to prevent tragedies and make sure our train bridges are safe over the long haul.”
In the FRA’s letter to rail companies across the U.S., Administrator Feinberg says, “Many of the nation’s railroad bridges are more than 100 years old. More and more bridges are showing visible signs of superficial deterioration. These signs, along with increased tonnage and traffic on the country’s rail system in recent years, have led to concerns about the structural integrity of railroad bridges. I understand and share those concerns.” For this reason, the FRA is urging rail companies – including ones across New York State like CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific – to be more responsive and transparent with Congress, local community leaders and residents regarding the safety status of rail bridges they own across New York State. Schumer said that because rail companies are tasked with maintaining their own tracks and rail bridges, they should be fixing bridges in question long before a federal audit reveals there could be a safety issue.
Schumer said it is particularly important these rail bridges be maintained because they are used predominantly for freight shipping, including the transport of hazardous material and crude oil, for this reason and the fact that these bridges crisscross local roads traveled by thousands of New Yorkers, Schumer said the safety of the rail bridges across Upstate New York must be a top priority for rail companies themselves. Schumer said that federal inspectors are critical in ensuring that private railroad companies are keeping bridges safe but the railroad companies themselves are responsible for fixing their own bridges. As a result, Schumer said the rail companies must be more responsive and the federal government must also dedicate more manpower and funding to audit bridges across Upstate New York to ensure they 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 noted the FRA currently has no set of engineering standards for railroad bridges, relying almost entirely on individual railroads to inspect, maintain and repair their own bridges and trestles, some of them built more than a century ago. The funding level for the rail bridge safety specialist program is currently just over $1 million per year. Schumer said that doubling this federal allocation would enable FRA to add at least seven more inspectors and help cut down on the heavy caseload and hold rail companies accountable for individual bridge repairs. Doing this would in turn drastically increase the number of federal reviews and audits that could occur per year. Schumer said this would improve the level of safety – and help restore peace of mind – for the residents and businesses within the vicinity of these rail bridges.