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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Casey Proposes Additional Railroad Inspectors

U.S. Senator Bob Casey said the nation must increase its commitment to inspecting the safety of train bridges to avoid disaster on Thursday.

Casey said he wants an additional $1 million added to the Federal Railroad Administration budget to increase the number of railroad inspectors from eight to 15.

He said the eight inspectors are currently responsible for inspecting more than 70,000 train bridges nationwide.

“You don’t have to be an expert in rail safety or engineering or otherwise to know that eight for 70,000 isn’t nearly enough,” he said, “and that’s why I’m calling for a $1 million investment.”

He said it is especially important for Pennsylvania in light of recent train derailments in the Keystone State, and the increase of oil shipments.

“The frequency with which these trains go through our state is up,” he said. “At the same time, the number of inspectors is not nearly what it needs to be.”

Nearly doubling the number of inspectors might not seem like much compared to the need to address 70,000 bridges, Casey said, but it is a step in the right direction.

“Obviously, even if you have many more than eight, they’re not going to get to every bridge… They have to prioritize and go to the ones with the highest risk,” he said, “But part of their duties, part of their charge, part of their mission, is to not simply review what was presented to them by the railroads, but also to do their own inspection.”

Casey said this move would be the first step toward widely improving safety issues throughout the country and will help answer several important questions.

“What happens when crude oil is moving through on these big tanker cars at volumes that we’ve never seen before?” Casey said. “How are we going to respond to that. How are we going to deal with that? Both on the preventative side, as well as the response side.”

Casey said the current investment in these inspectors is inadequate, and he compared their work to proactive law enforcement.

“This effort to get more dollars into the (Federal Railroad Administration)… I believe is a part of a larger effort to enhance safety on our railroads on a number of fronts, but especially when it comes to our railroad bridges,” he said.