Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Are Philadelphia's rail bridges safe?



Do we really want 5 million barrels of oil a month going over a bridge built during the first presidential term of Grover Cleveland?

But this winter, things are different along 25th Street. A sudden spike in freight traffic because of the surge in North Dakota oil production and the reopening of South Philly's massive refinery, a nearly disastrous derailment on the 128-year-old bridge over the Schuylkill River, and news coverage of a nearly 30-foot concrete slab falling have raised fears. But there's also hope that CSX will finally address Philadelphia's infrastructure crisis.

On Wednesday, executives from the notoriously tight-lipped freight line are slated to arrive from Jacksonville, Fla., to testify at a City Council hearing on freight-rail safety. It's suddenly a front-burner issue after two oil-laden tanker cars nearly tumbled from the circa-1886 Schuylkill Arsenal Bridge and a spate of oil-by-rail accidents elsewhere, including one in Quebec that killed 47 people in July.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson - whose district is bisected by the milelong oil trains that arrive about twice a day from North Dakota - said he's optimistic that CSX will announce stepped-up maintenance and an infrastructure overhaul that will address safety concerns that have festered in South Philly, Grays Ferry and other parts of the city for decades.

Consider this:

But government inspections are rare and critical safety information about bridges like the Schuylkill crossing - built during the first presidency of Grover Cleveland, in the year that Native American chief Geronimo surrendered - is not public.

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About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.


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