News Column

Bridge in Derailment Also Collapsed in 2009

Nov. 30, 2012

Paul Nussbaum

The freight rail bridge that collapsed this morning in Paulsboro also gave way three years ago, causing the derailment of 16 coal cars.

The swing bridge, owned by Conrail, buckled on Aug. 23, 2009, and derailed part of a 50-car train of coal on its way to a power plant plant in Salem County.

No one was reported injured, and the bridge was quickly repaired by Conrail and put back into service.

State Senate president Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), who represents Paulsboro, said Friday "we have a lot of questions to be answered" about the adequacy of the 2009 repair.

"Was it a temporary repair? Was it done properly? Were they going to come back and do more later?" Sweeney said.

Since the bridge is privately owned and maintained, its inspection records are not open to the public. The Federal Railroad Administration does not regulate bridge structural safety, though the agency monitors rail companies' bridge inspection programs.

Conrail spokesman John Enright on Friday declined to comment on the weight limits on the bridge or on the bridge's recent inspection history.

Sweeney said state officials would look into the bridge's inspection history.

"There's no way they are going to be able to hide it. You know we're going to get it," he said. "I'm not pointing fingers at anybody, but this is an issue of concern."

Sweeney said the bride had apparently been "making noises" right before its collapse Friday and that "Conrail was coming out and looking at it."

In the 2009 derailment, support pilings were apparently damaged, according to reports at the time.

Source: (c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by MCT Information Services

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