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Syracuse Mayor: Railroad Bridge Report "Woefully Inadequate" to Determine Safety of Viaduct

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is calling a railroad bridge inspection report “woefully inadequate” in order to determine if the railroad viaduct through the city is safe.  The summary report comes two weeks after two 40-foot concrete sidewalls tumbled onto South Clinton Street. 

It’s clear Walsh is a bit frustrated by the lack of information regarding the condition of the structures beyond their “capacity to safely carry traffic” as stated in the report of an inspection performed two years ago.  Given the July 5th wall collapse, Walsh says the designation is clearly not sufficient to deem the bridges safe.

Key sections of the report also call into question the reliability of the inspections performed.  For example, the area of the collapse is described as in ‘fair to good condition.’  More troubling, only 13 of the 35 structures were characterized as ‘no safety hazards found.’ With that limited information provided, we can only conclude the remaining 22 structures pose some safety hazard to the community.”

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Crews remove the sidewalls on the 600 block of S. Clinton St.

Walsh is calling on the New York Susquehanna and western Railroad, which owns the tracks, to provide the city with repair and maintenance plans to address the hazards that exist on those 22 structures. He says it should also include a plan for the repair and restoration of the sidewalls.  Walsh is also holding the Federal railroad administration responsible, asking the agency to do more as the overseeing governmental body.

“They have the ability to do a full inspection, independent inspection of their own on the tracks.  We’re asking them to do that.  They have the ability to audit previous reports.  We want them to do that.”

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
Mayor Ben Walsh goes through his notes just before the press conference.

He’s urging the FRA to take immediate and more protective action to ensure the safety of the tens of thousands people who live, work, and travel around the elevated rail line.  Walsh says he has the backing of Congressmember John Katko, and senators Kirsten Gillibrand Chuck Schumer.  In a statement, Schumer says he’s calling the FRA to immediately release full annual bridge inspection reports, as well as any audits, verification, or other review they have conducted on those reports.  Until then, Walsh says he’s not confident that public safety can be ensured.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.