Constituent Services
Congressman Higgins Calls for Federal Railroad Administration Review of WNY Bridges
December 14, 2006
Calls 18 Train Derailments in 18 Months “Unacceptable”

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) sent a letter this week to Federal Rail Administration (FRA) Administrator Joseph H. Boardman requesting a systematic inventory and review of the soundness of railroad bridges and overpasses in Erie and Chautauqua Counties. 
 
"Two train derailments this week and eighteen in the last eighteen months is completely unacceptable,” said Congressman Higgins.  “Western New Yorkers look at this pattern of insufficient care and rightly question whether those responsible for protecting their safety are sufficiently rigorous in ensuring proper track management and upkeep is taking place.”
 
On December 10 a CSX train derailed on an overpass in Cheektowaga.  The next morning a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed on an overpass in Buffalo.   Media reports indicate there have been 18 train derailments in Erie County from January 2005 to September 2006, including the derailment in a Buffalo rail yard of a CSX train carrying a cask used to transport spent U.S. Navy nuclear fuel.
 
Currently, the responsibility for track inspection is left to the individual railroad companies.  Congressman Higgins’ letter urges the FRA to step in and analyze recent derailments, identify bridges that pose potential hazards for future derailments and make recommendations for action that the railroads can take to guarantee public safety in Western New York. 
 
Higgins’ December 13 letter regarding railroad bridge safety comes two months after he revealed that the state of New York has shortchanged WNY on vehicular bridge funding by $158 million.
 
-30-
 
 
Attachment:  Rep. Higgins Letter to FRA
 
 
 
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-3227
 
December 13, 2006
The Honorable Joseph H. Boardman
Administrator
Federal Railroad Administration
1120 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20590
 
Dear Administrator Boardman:
 
I am writing to express my concern about rail safety in Western New York. 
 
Yesterday a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed on an overpass in Buffalo, causing a light structure to fall and strike a passing minivan on to Bailey Avenue below.  This is the second such incident in Erie County in as many days.  On Sunday a CSX train derailed on an overpass in Cheektowaga sending a boxcar crashing to Union Road below; yet less than two months ago a train derailed on this same section of track causing a guardrail to strike a passing vehicle. 
Press reports indicate that there have been 18 rain derailments in Erie County from January 2005 to September 2006, including the derailment in a Buffalo rail yard of a CSX train carrying a cask used to transport U.S. Navy spent nuclear fuel.  This record is unacceptable.  Western New Yorkers look at this pattern of insufficient care and rightly question whether those responsible for protecting their safety are sufficiently rigorous in ensuring proper track management and upkeep is taking place. 
 
Therefore I am calling on the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to undertake a systematic inventory and review of the soundness of railroad bridges and overpasses in the counties of Erie and Chautauqua, New York.  As a Northeastern community we have unique weather-related challenges that cause deterioration of steel and bridge components, and as such ensuring their integrity merits particular attention from the railroads and the FRA.  Clearly, the current system of leaving track inspection to the individual railroads is failing the public of late.  An FRA review is needed to restore trust in the integrity of these overpasses.  The review should analyze recent derailments, identify bridges that pose potential hazards for future derailments, and make recommendations for action that the railroads can take to guarantee public safety in Western New York. 
I look forward to working with you on this important matter.  Thank you. 
    
 
Sincerely, 
     
Brian Higgins
Member of Congress
 
 

 
 
Washington, DC Office
431 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3306
Fax: 202-226-0347

Erie County Office
Larkin at Exchange
726 Exchange Street
Suite 601
Buffalo, NY 14210
Phone: 716-852-3501
Fax: 716-852-3929
 
Chautauqua County Office
Fenton Building
2 East Second Street
Suite 300
Jamestown, NY 14701
Phone: 716-484-0729
Fax: 716-484-1049