Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rail Sitdown in Offing

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rail Sitdown in Offing

Article excerpt

HAWORTH -- CSX engineers will meet this month with town officials to discuss the condition of two pedestrian tunnels under the company's rail line that have become a concern now that millions of gallons of crude oil pass through the town on trains, Mayor John Smart said Friday.

Smart had been trying for months to get inspection reports on the condition of the Crocker Place and Park Street Playground tunnels, but a federal loophole in railroad regulations prevented him from getting any meaningful information. Smart said he recently secured a meeting with CSX executives and hopes to meet with them regularly.

Officials from Teaneck to Harrington Park have often complained that CSX, which operates the largest rail system in the eastern U.S., has been slow to address local concerns since railroads are regulated almost exclusively by the federal government.

Bogota officials famously issued a summons in 1999 to a CSX train for disturbing the peace by idling noisily even though railroads are exempt from municipal ordinances under federal interstate commerce law.

They say Florida-based CSX should be more responsive especially now that 15 to 30 trains, each carrying as much as 3.6 million gallons of volatile Bakken crude oil, pass through 11 towns each week on the company's River Line. The oil has been involved in several fiery derailments across North America in recent years.

In Bergen County, the trains pass thousands of homes and businesses on their way to a Philadelphia refinery. They cross dozens of small bridges, some of which appear pristine and others that are heavily rusted with cracked foundations.

Among them are the two pedestrian tunnels in Haworth, one of which has cracked and crumbling concrete just under the railbed, and the other near the playground.

Smart was unable to get inspection reports because railroads are not required to submit them to their primary regulator, the Federal Railroad Administration, unless the FRA asks for them.

A spokesman for CSX said this summer that the tunnels were inspected in January and deemed safe, but would not make inspection reports public.

"Those tracks are inspected visually several times weekly, and are subjected several times annually to internal, ultrasound inspections and examination with a geometry car that measures physical characteristics to affirm compliance with engineering specifications," Rob Doolittle, a CSX spokesman, said this week. …

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