Records and On-Site Assessments Will Begin Next Week
In response to a letter from Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has confirmed they will initiate an investigation into the safety of railroad overpasses in Erie and Chautauqua Counties.
“A startling pattern of train mishaps give Western New York residents the right to question whether those responsible for protecting their safety are sufficiently rigorous in ensuring proper track management and upkeep is taking place,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It is a relief to hear that a federal, impartial authority is willing to come in and provide us with answers that can lead to safer rail transportation in WNY.”
The investigation, scheduled to begin next week, will involve an assessment of safety and maintenance records kept by the railroads that own the track, and a review of their safety and maintenance methods. Following this evaluation, a FRA specialist will perform on-site assessments of the integrity and safety of several overpasses. Weather permitting, the entire investigation is expected to take approximately 4 weeks.
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, dated December 13, 2006, urged 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’ 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.