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More work needed to shore up Oradell Reservoir bridge


JUNE 3, 2015, 11:16 PM    LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2015, 11:28 PM

A small bridge over the Oradell Reservoir used by trains hauling millions of gallons of crude oil has deteriorated to the point that the rail company will soon replace the 86-year-old span’s entire deck, according to a federal government inspection report.

While federal officials have said the bridge is structurally sound, the report by the Federal Railroad Administration indicates the bridge is in worse condition than its owner, CSX Corp., acknowledged shortly after it was inspected in March.

The 25-foot bridge crosses the northeast corner of the reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 800,000 people. As many as 30 trains — each carrying up to 3 million gallons of volatile Bakken crude — cross the bridge each week along the CSX River Line on the way to refineries on the East Coast, prompting concerns from local officials, firefighters and water company executives.

The bridge was inspected by the Federal Railroad Administration on March 31, just a few days after The Record reported that government officials had no current reports on the bridge’s condition.

At that time, government officials said the bridge passed inspection and CSX executives said some railroad ties would be replaced “as a matter of routine maintenance.”

But the one-page inspection report — released to the newspaper this week, almost two months after it was requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act – reveals the bridge required serious attention. It states that the bridge deck showed enough deterioration that CSX had already determined to replace it. CSX also ordered trains to reduce speed from 40 mph to 25 mph on the span to “protect the railroad as well as the public for safe passage of trains,” according to the inspection report.

The Federal Railroad Administration employee who inspected the bridge declined to comment.

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