Sen. Bob Casey calls for more funding for railroad bridges

Repost from The Herald, Sharon PA

Casey calls for more funding for railroad bridges

By John Finnerty, CNHI Harrisburg, August 7, 2015 7:38 am

HARRISBURG – The federal government must step up oversight of railroad bridges as hundreds of trains carrying explosive crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota cross the state each week, said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

Casey, a Democrat and the state’s senior senator, has repeatedly criticized the government’s regulation of railroads in light of derailments and explosions involving crude oil.

Pennsylvania has more than 900 bridges that carry trains over highways, Casey said. The Federal Railroad Administration has just one inspector to check those bridges.

Under a 2010 Federal Railroad Administration rule, railroads must check each bridge at least once a year. At the time that rule was adopted, the government estimated there were 100,000 railroad bridges in the United States.

Railroads face fines of $100,000 for failing to comply with inspection rules.

But short-staffing at the railroad administration means the agency is in no position to ensure that railroads comply, Casey said.

“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,” he said in a written statement. “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.”

Before the Bakken region’s tracking boom, railroads carried about 9,500 cars of crude oil a year. This year they’re on track to top a half-million, according to the American Association of Railroads.

That includes trains that carry at least 60 to 70 million gallons of crude oil across Pennsylvania each week.