CLEVELAND — Norfolk Southern has been under a large microscope in Ohio since its fiery East Palestine train derailment in February. While the company engages in a cleanup of that area, one of the state's two U.S. senators is now calling on Norfolk Southern to turn its attention towards Cleveland.
On Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw demanding that the company fix the Lake Avenue Bridge, one of the company's 20 railroad properties in Cleveland.
“On a recent visit to Cleveland’s Edgewater neighborhood, I heard from residents fed up with the failure to repair the historic Lake Avenue Bridge, which has had chunks of concrete and cast iron falling onto the road and sidewalk as trains pass overhead,” Brown told Shaw. "There is no defensible excuse for failing to fix this bridge. Norfolk Southern must make swift improvements and prevent further damage and potential injuries.”
The Lake Avenue Bridge was built in 1912 at the entrance into Edgewater Park. It was declared an official "Cleveland Landmark" in 2021. Over the last three years, an organization called "Friends of Lake Avenue Bridge" has also been advocating for the historic structure to be repaired.
Brown added that Norfolk Southern has "largely ignored" local leaders in the past in regards to complaints and repairs. "Mayor (Justin) Bibb of Cleveland has requested to establish regular contact with Norfolk Southern to better manage the care of railroad properties within Cleveland. These requests should not be ignored and Norfolk Southern must stop keeping local officials – whether in East Palestine, Sandusky, or Cleveland – at an arm’s length and start working together to ensure the safety of all communities," Brown stated.
"I ask that you provide a plan detailing how you will improve the Lake Avenue Bridge specifically and the general problems of rail property disrepair in Cleveland," Brown closed in his letter to Shaw. "You have a chance to fix past mistakes, and do the right thing to support local communities and invest in the future of American rail infrastructure."
You can read the entire letter below.
Last week, Norfolk Southern announced that it expects February's fiery Ohio derailment to cost it $387 million, but that total will likely increase over time and that doesn't reflect how much the railroad's insurance companies will eventually cover. The estimate doesn't include money Norfolk Southern will put into funds to help cover any long-term health issues, protect drinking water and compensate residents for the loss in their property values because the details are still being worked out with Ohio's attorney general. The railroad will also have to reimburse the Environmental Protection Agency for its oversight of the cleanup.