Washington DC- With only 1 federal railroad inspector for all 919 train bridges in Pennsylvania, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), highlighting local data, called for more railroad bridge inspectors on railroad bridges carrying potentially dangerous crude trains. Casey discussed data from each community in Pennsylvania showing which bridges could potentially carry crude trains. Casey also released a new letter to the Federal Railroad Administration pressing for the swift addition of more inspectors. A series of derailments across the state have raised concerns. Casey has pressed the Administration to issue stronger safety rules and has pushed legislation to get more modern, safer railcars on the tracks.
“Pennsylvania has experienced far too many train derailments in recent years. From Philadelphia to Vandergrift, communities throughout Pennsylvania have seen large trains carrying toxic chemicals careen into neighborhoods near where our children go to school, our families go to work and where our seniors visit their doctors,” Senator Casey said. “It’s time to put more cops on the beat by hiring more rail inspectors. With the risks that our communities face only increasing, the FRA needs to put this process into overdrive.”
The full text of Casey’s letter can be seen below. The local data is attached.
Dear Acting Administrator Feinberg:
I write today to express my concern about the number of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) bridge safety specialists tasked with evaluating the thousands of privately owned railroad bridges in the Commonwealth and across the country. While many of these bridges are owned by rail carriers who are responsible for maintaining and inspecting the structures, the Federal Railroad Administration plays a critical oversight role in this process, ensuring structural integrity and safety by conducting thorough evaluations to certify that the owners of these bridges are inspecting them properly.
Pennsylvania and states across the country have seen a massive increase in transporting volatile crude oil by rail, which poses an even greater risk should a bridge collapse or fail. The FRA currently employs six Bridge Safety Specialists and one Supervisor who are tasked with enforcing the 2010 Bridge Safety Standards rule, auditing the bridge management programs and individual inspection reports across the entire country for all privately owned rail bridges. The limited number of Bridge Safety Specialists and the overall national inventory of rail bridges, which is estimated to be at least 77,000 bridges, raises significant concerns about the specialists’ ability to properly audit the bridges and ensure that they meet design and engineering standards. Pennsylvania alone has over 900 railroad bridges, and at current staffing levels the FRA specialist tasked with auditing those bridges must also cover additional states. This lack of oversight could cause gaps in our rail safety system and creates an environment where hundreds of unsafe bridges could be in daily use without proper federal oversight.
As a result, I urge you to prioritize this type of inspection, and make necessary changes to this program to allow for the hiring of additional Bridge Safety Specialists. Thank you for your consideration of my request. I stand ready to work with you to ensure that you have adequate funding to make sure these bridges are safe for railroad employees, passengers and surrounding communities. I appreciate your attention to this issue, should you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact me directly or Jack Groarke on my staff at (202) 224-2844.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator