Schumer: More oversight of railroad bridges is needed

By James Walsh - Times Herald-Record - Posted Dec. 23, 2014 @ 7:36 pm
Updated Dec 24, 2014 at 12:50 AM on reconrdonline.com 

CITY OF NEWBURGH -- Sen. Charles Schumer on Tuesday called for more federal inspections of railroad bridges after deteriorating conditions were found at two Cornwall bridges and another in Kingston that routinely support trains hauling millions of gallons of crude oil.

Crumbling concrete foundations were found by Riverkeeper at the Kingston bridge over the Roundout [sic] Creek. Two in Cornwall just south of Storm King Mountain had similar concrete deterioration, as well as exposed rebar and missing or loose bolts. Schumer wanted all three immediately subject to federal inspection.

The bridges are owned by CSX, which did not return a reporter's request for information about the bridges. The ones in Cornwall are adjacent to the Hudson River. The one in Kingston is near four marinas, as well as a popular promenade that extends under the railroad bridge.

Standing near the CSX tracks looming over Front Street, Schumer showed photographs of the Cornwall bridges taken by John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper's boat captain.

"They are old; they are not in good shape," Schumer said. He was not saying disaster was imminent, but rather that the conditions warranted close inspections of all three structures. One of the Cornwall bridges is more than 100 years old.

Federal law requires railroads to inspect their bridges at least annually. The inspection reports are subject to audit by the Federal Railroad Administration, which may also interview the structural engineers who wrote the reports.

Yet there are only seven inspectors assigned to oversee audits of all privately owned train bridges across the country, Schumer said, and just one inspector for 3,000 bridges in New York state. The FRA did not immediately respond to Schumer's demand for it to inspect the bridges.

Schumer said the system was woefully understaffed, and left too much to the railroads' discretion.

"These bridges run right along the precious Hudson River, and every day there are freight trains carrying hazardous materials and crude oil right over them," Schumer said. "Any problem with their structural integrity could lead to a disaster of epic proportions."

Orange County Legislator Curlie Dillard, who represents the city and town of Newburgh, spoke for County Executive Steve Neuhaus at the meeting with Schumer. Dillard called the questionable condition of the bridges a serious issue. He said he lives near the CSX tracks in Newburgh and has worries about the transport of crude oil.

Riverkeeper has called for a moratorium on the transport of crude oil in the state. It cites concerns not only of bridge stability, but also of track and rail-car integrity.

"The Hudson cannot afford the damage that a crude-oil spill could cause," said Lipscomb.  "... We need independent, enforceable oversight immediately."

[email protected] - Staff reporter Jeremiah Horrigan contributed to this report. 


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  • David Lindsay
    commented 2018-01-08 16:48:01 -0500
    Need to be updated
  • Randolph Hurst
    commented 2015-07-30 23:23:30 -0400
    There are many environmental issues facing Orange County besides that noted above! And none of them are necessary! There are sustainable, clean, well paid “Green” job alternatives readily available right now!
    The future of Orange County will be forever tarnished by the Taylor Gasification project in Montgomery which, is nothing more than a “high tech Incinerator” that will pollute the air we breathe and decimate the “0 Waste Management” objectives of not only NYS but Orange County, killing recycling programs and sustainable green job opportunities for unskilled labor. Moreover, the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) Valley Energy Center slated to be built in Slate Hill between Routes 6 and I84 is a NEEDLESS frack gas electric generator which will dump over 2.1 Million tons of greenhouse gases, VOC’s, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, nitrous oxide, sulfuric acid mist, methane and formaldehyde into the already non-compliant ozone laden OC atmosphere. It will be fueled by an highly explosive, radon laden, toxic eight mile Millennium Pipeline “lateral” via the Millennium Minisink Compressor Station which, has already reduced home values, threatens the health and quality of life of more than the 200 families in the Town of Minisink and now threatens to do the same in the Town of Wawayanda. In addition, CPV recently sold the majority of its shares to a Japanese, Indian and African Investor conglomerate because no American lender would fund the enterprise!
    Unless, people of conscience and caring organize and stop these developments, we will become fossil fuel dependent for the next 30 to 60 years which, will exacerbate global warming, climate change and extreme weather catastrophes that we, the taxpayers, will have to suffer and bear the cost of reconstruction. Our County, our Towns and our Nation needs leadership ready to say it is now time to transition to Renewable Energy!
  • Gail F Fletcher
    published this page in Issues 2014-12-25 09:18:07 -0500