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Rail bridges: 2 oil train firms fail to submit required inspection records

Brian Nearing of the Albany Times Union follows up today on efforts by the New York State Comptroller to audit the Railroad Bridge Inspection Program. He learned this, among other things:

DOT spokesman Gary Holmes said Tuesday that two major railroads running massive oil trains into New York from the North Dakota hydrofracking fields have failed to submit records for their bridges required under state Transportation Law.

CSX has not submitted its bridge management plan and Canadian Pacific has not submitted its yearly bridge inspection certification.

Railroads seem to enjoy an entirely different standard from the rest of us. Who gets to decide they’re going to wait years to get a car inspection? What driver of an 18-wheeler gets to tell a state trooper, “I’ll get to it”?

These rail bridges are in a regulatory no-man’s land, yet this is critical infrastructure where a failure would be catastrophic.

More from the Times Union article:

In 2015, a report by several environmental groups found that aging railroad bridges in New York — including a bridge over the Normanskill in Albany County owned by CSX — were at risk from the pounding being inflicted by massive oil trains.

“We are glad that the comptroller is keeping on this issue, but we are dismayed,” said John Lipscomb, chief of the Riverkeeper patrol boat that routinely travels the Hudson from Troy to New York City. He said bare-bones certification forms are little better than nothing.

“We have seen the past CSX reports to DOT. All of one paragraph: All of our bridges are fine,” said Lipscomb. “And the governor’s rail inspection blitzes do not include bridges, a critical component of oil train traffic.”

More information:

December 2013 Audit, Railroad Bridge Inspection Program, Office of the State Comptroller

October 2016 Letter from Office of the State Comptroller to New York Department of Transportation

November 2015 Report “Deadly Crossing: Neglected Bridges & Exploding Oil Trains” by Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and Forest Ethics

Riverkeeper’s information hub on Crude Oil Transport.

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