Schumer, Gillibrand demand Norfolk Southern work with city to address poor bridge conditions across Binghamton

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:37 PM EDT
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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) have called on Norfolk Southern Railway to immediately begin work with Binghamton officials to address poor bridge conditions in the city.

Schumer and Gillibrand also called on the Federal Railroad Administration to meet with city officials and conduct its own federal audit and review of the bridges to establish a more precise and detailed picture of the safety concerns. Schumer and Gillibrand said poor conditions of the bridges need to be addressed.

The senators’ plea comes just a little more than two weeks after Binghamton officials released the findings of a 900-page report regarding the structural integrity of bridges across the city. That report, which was conducted by independent engineering firm HUNT-EAS, determined 15 bridges in Binghamton are in severe or poor condition. Those included bridges on Water Street, Front Street, Glenwood Avenue and Jarvis Street.

Due to the report, Kraham noted he sought help from Representative Marc Molinaro (R, NY-19), Schumer and Gillibrand as the city did not have the authority to mandate independent railroad companies to fix the bridges.

“We cannot wait for an accident to spur action; Norfolk Southern needs to come to the table to fully address the concerns raised by the City to ensure Binghamton’s rail bridges are safe over the long haul,” Schumer said in a news release.

The push to at least inspect bridge conditions in Binghamton came after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio in early February. The train in question was carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride; a cancer-causing chemical, when it went off the rails, the Associated Press reported. Mayor Kraham announced he would hire an independent firm to take a look at the city’s bridges in late February. In June, inspections by HUNT-EAS began.

“While the City has made this independent bridge safety report readily available to the public, we understand that Norfolk Southern Railway has led its own inspection, but those official findings have not yet been shared with the community,” said Schumer and Gillibrand in the letter addressed to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. “Please share your findings with the city immediately and meet with local leadership to discuss the reports and talk through any concerns.”

Monday evening, a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern said the company had been working to fix its bridges even before the disaster in East Palestine.

“Our bridges are often landmarks in the communities we serve – and how they look can be a resident’s first perception of how safe they are,” the spokesperson said. “Many of the bridges noted in this report have repairs planned, and we regularly engage with local officials to understand and address concerns alongside our regular inspections to ensure our bridges remain safe.”

Norfolk Southern noted that it has invested more than $20 million in infrastructure projects in New York State in 2022.

The full letter from Schumer and Gillibrand to Norfolk Southern can be read by following this link.