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More Railroad Inspectors Might have Stopped Partial Rail Bridge Collapse in Syr: Schumer

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Chris Bolt/WAER News
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More federal rail inspectors might have been able to spot - and stop - the crashing concrete that narrowly missed causing severe injuries when it fell on Clinton Street this past July.  

Senator Chuck Schumer in Syracuse today made a call for the Federal Railroad Administration to hire more inspectors.

“The hit them once every 5, 6, 7, 8 years, much to infrequent because these bridges are deteriorating more rapidly.  That’s why we’re asking for a significant increase in inspectors.  I think each bridge should be inspected once a year, at minimum.”  

Right now, he says, there are only three inspectors for the entire Northeast.

Schumer visited the exact site of the concrete collapse, where two 30-ton slabs that served as fences along the tracks fell onto Clinton Street.  Security video shows cars just starting up on a green light, moving out of the path of the falling debris.   And the problem is not unique to Syracuse.

“A bridge, 2-3 weeks later, owned by the same railroad, collapsed in Northern New Jersey.  The number of collapses is going to increase as the bridges get older and the inspections get less frequent.” 

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Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
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Walsh says temporary repairs to the area that collapsed must be updated and improved by the N-Y-S-W railroad. Syracuse has also sent the rail company a bill for emergency services and repairs the city had to undertake.

Train tracks are usually inspected yearly by the owners of the tracks.  Mayor Ben Walsh has been reassured by New York, Susquehana and Western Railroad that train traffic along the six-and-a-half miles through Syracuse is completely safe.  

“The railroad did complete their inspections of the tracks back in July.  Their engineers have assured us that there are no imminent public safety risks but we are anxious to get our eyes on those reports.”

Walsh struggled to get inspection reports out of the N-Y-S-W officials after the collapse.  Schumer is calling on the F-R-A to hire four-to-five times the inspectors.  And he says the administration has the budget for such an increase provide oversight of the three-thousand rail bridges in New York State.    

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.