NSPE Responds to New York Bridge Collapse

September/October 2018

NSPE Today
NSPE Responds to New York Bridge Collapse

The partial collapse of a railroad bridge in Syracuse, New York, in July has once again brought attention to infrastructure conditions and public safety.

No one was injured when two 40-foot sections of decorative concrete fell into the turning lane of the below road, but elected officials and NSPE are calling for answers and change.

After the collapse, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York brought attention to the fact that only six specialists are tasked with overseeing rail bridge inspections and audits for the Federal Railroad Administration, and only three people are responsible for auditing 3,000 privately owned rail bridges in the state. He called for an increase in the number of federal railroad bridge safety specialists nationwide.

In a letter submitted to the senator, NSPE President Michael Aitken, P.E., F.NSPE, commended Schumer for his advocacy on the issue and urged that professional engineers continue their unique role in ensuring these inspections are performed competently and with appropriate technical rigor.

Aitken noted that current law requires the inspection of roadway bridges every other year, but the same requirement doesn’t apply to railroad bridges. “Private companies are then forced to self-inspect their own train bridges, subject to oversight by the Federal Railroad Administration,” he wrote. “With only a fraction of the nation’s nearly 100,000 privately owned railroad bridges subject to review every year, additional qualified railroad bridge safety inspectors will be critical to ensure that private railroad companies are keeping bridges safe.”

About three weeks after the bridge collapse in Syracuse, another railroad bridge owned by the same company—New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway—collapsed in Bergen County, New Jersey. No one was hurt.

According to Syracuse.com, engineers investigating the collapse in central New York identified the cause as extreme high temperatures or “thermal expansion of the concrete and steel.”

Jul 17
Inspection found cracked, flaking sidewalls at site of Syracuse rail bridge collapse
syracuse.com ‏Verified account @syracusedotcom Jul 17  Inspection found cracked, flaking sidewalls at site of Syracuse rail bridge collapse
The section that collapsed and 35 other bridge sections in the Syracuse-area were inspected on May 30, 2017 and June 6, 2017.