CLEVELAND — As 3News reported earlier this month, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has called on Norfolk Southern to fix the Lake Avenue Bridge, one of the company's 20 railroad properties in Cleveland.
While Brown continues to engage in back-and-forth conversations with Norfolk Southern about the Cleveland landmark, he is also calling on two other companies, CSX and Canadian National Railway, to improve the upkeep of infrastructure they own in Ohio.
“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 Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw in a letter sent May 2. "There is no defensible excuse for failing to fix this bridge. Norfolk Southern must make swift improvements and prevent further damage and potential injuries.”
In response to Brown's demand, Shaw said a week later that an inspection last year showed that the Lake Avenue Bridge "is structurally sound."
"Nonetheless, I will review the results of this assessment, and we are committed to making any repairs necessary to ensure the bridge remains safe and in compliance with applicable regulations. We will also endeavor to implement aesthetic improvements alongside any repairs," Shaw added.
In addition, Shaw told Brown that Norfolk Southern had already deployed personnel who are using power washers and a vacuum truck to remove any mud, water, and debris from underneath the bridge. He stated that the company will work with the city to investigate the damaged lighting underneath the bridge. "Finally, we are inspecting the bridge to confirm proper boarding has been installed to ensure that foot and vehicle traffic is protected from loose debris," Shaw concluded.
But that wasn't enough for Brown.
“Norfolk Southern is still refusing to make a full commitment to fixing this bridge," he told 3News in a statement. "Cleanup isn’t enough – we need a specific timeline for repairs, and it shouldn’t take media reports or letters to the CEO to get it done. I will continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and press for swift improvements that will prevent further damage and potential injuries in the future.”
As Brown continues to pursue a firm commitment on the Lake Avenue Bridge repairs, he is also pushing for similar fixes for other Ohio railway bridges.
In a letter sent on Monday to Shaw, Brown stated he had received additional reports of "falling concrete and other hazards involving Norfolk Southern rail bridges in both Elyria and Amherst. These deteriorated bridges have been repeatedly dismissed by your engineers and business representatives, stating that bridges merely need to hold the weight of freight passing overhead. This is obviously unacceptable, especially to the residents that drive or walk underneath your company’s bridges and who are fearful of falling concrete or other building material.”
However, Brown's concerns about the condition of rail bridges extends beyond just Norfolk Southern. He also wrote letters to the CEOs of both CSX and Canadian National Railway.
Specifically with CSX, Brown said he had received reports of falling concrete and other hazards involving the company's rail bridges in Geneva. "CSX’s rail bridge on Route 20 by Geneva is also exhibiting severe concrete erosion, and local officials have blocked off the walkway underneath because of longstanding unaddressed safety concerns," he added.
Brown requested the following from Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Canadian National Railway:
- A comprehensive list of all Ohio rail bridges owned or maintained by each company
- Detail the complete condition of each bridge
- Create a plan for the "full remediation of deteriorated rail bridges that can harm communities"
- Divulge every bridge that local officials and community representatives have asked the railroads to improve
"Your company is responsible for this infrastructure, and your company has a duty to proactively invest a fair share of revenues into properly maintaining tracks and bridges within the local communities that host your trains. Structural integrity is vital – but is not sufficient. Decaying, decrepit bridges remain a threat to local communities. Anything less than full repair of all of your infrastructure in Ohio communities is insufficient," Brown wrote to all three company CEOs.