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Local News

December 11, 2013

Local officials dispute state's bridge report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli accused the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday of doing a sloppy job at monitoring railroad bridge inspections, and complained that one local tourism railroad went for 17 years without a bridge management plan.

A 12-page audit issued by DiNapoli was aimed at determining whether the DOT is overseeing New York railroads in a way that ensures that bridge inspection requirements are met.

The report specifically singled out the state agency’s oversight of the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad, which is run by a nonprofit organization that caters to tourists and railroad history buffs.

The audit maintained that the Cooperstown railroad “has yet to have its bridge load ratings calculated, despite submitting certifications in two of the three years of our scope period stating that its bridges were all inspected and are all safe for the loading imposed.”

The DOT took issue with DiNapoli’s report, noting it does not regulate railroads, a job that is the responsibility of the Federal Railroad Administration, and pointing out that the Cooperstown railroad is in compliance with its filing obligations.

“Despite the assertions made in the Comptroller’s report, we have 100 percent compliance from owners of private railroad bridges that inspections have been performed,” DOT spokesman Beau Duffy said.

“That means all of the privately-owned bridges have been inspected and certified for 2013,” Duffy added. “The department will continue to work with railroad bridge owners to ensure that they are adhering to Federal Railroad Administration regulations, and that the bridges are inspected and safe to carry their designated loads.”

Bruce Hodges of Oneonta, the president of the Cooperstown railroad, said the audit contained several factual errors. He also disputed DiNapoli’s conclusions, saying the bridge inspections were done by a properly credentialed expert for each year the railroad has operated.

“We’re mandated to have annual inspections of our bridges, and we do,” he said. The railroad crosses two small bridges, one in Hartwick Seminary, the other in Phoenix Mills, he said.

The comptroller’s report said New York has 38 railroads that are obligated to maintain nearly 3,000 railroad bridges across the state.

DOT officials said they require railroad bridge owners to annually certify that their bridges are safe for the loading imposed on them.

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