Railroads Join FRA to Strengthen Bridge Safety Policy

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman announced the first standard railroad bridge inspection and maintenance agreement between railroads and his agency, saying the deal is a big step toward increased safety.

"Having a common set of baseline inspection and maintenance practices against which all railroads are measured will help ensure the structural integrity and safety of the nation's rail bridges for years to come," Boardman said Sept. 24. He said as a result, the public will know more about how the safety of railroad bridges is managed.

The agreement is called The Essential Elements of a Railroad Bridge Management Program; it was developed and approved by the FRA Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, on which railroad companies are represented. The nine elements include maintaining a detailed bridge inventory; having procedures for the design and safety rating of bridges; ensuring bridge inspectors are properly qualified; establishing procedures for performing bridge inspections; and having a plan to protect train operations following discovery of a critical bridge problem.

FRA will formally add the essential elements into existing FRA bridge safety policy by the end of 2008, and it will be an integral part of a railroad’s bridge management evaluation, Boardman said.

FRA is working to write risk-based criteria for choosing which smaller railroads undergo federal bridge program review, and the American Railway Engineers and Maintenance of Way Association recently published the first railroad bridge inspection handbook. The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association is also creating a model rail bridge management program based on the essential elements and the FRA bridge safety policy.

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