Railroad operators explain train derailment before Council

AKIRA SUWA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says residents demand to know why CSX hasn't repaired a crumbling train bridge on 25th Street.
AKIRA SUWA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Councilman Kenyatta Johnson says residents demand to know why CSX hasn't repaired a crumbling train bridge on 25th Street.
Posted: March 14, 2014

NO ONE WAS injured and nothing was spilled in the Jan. 20 train derailment over the Schuylkill, but that didn't stop City Council members from peppering CSX executives with questions about how it happened.

"We really just skipped over a catastrophe," Councilman Kenyatta Johnson told a panel of CSX representatives yesterday during a joint hearing of the committees on transportation and public utility and public safety.

"Nobody stepped up to the plate and addressed this, saying, 'Hey - there's a tanker hanging off the side of the expressway.' "

The councilman has been vocal about the lack of timely response from both the city and CSX after the derailment of seven cars carrying crude oil along the 25th Street Bridge in his South Philadelphia district.

Johnson said his constituents are demanding answers as to why there are falling concrete, piled debris and trash heaps on CSX property - about a half-mile from a day-care center and a Philadelphia Housing Authority development.

Before the hearing yesterday, Quintin Kendall, vice president for state government and community affairs for CSX, toured the 86-year-old bridge with Johnson and saw where a fence to prevent illegal dumping had been torn down.

Kendall traveled from CSX's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters to answer questions from Johnson and Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. for more than two hours yesterday. It was the first time CSX testified before Council on the potential cause of the incident.

"You're right," Kendall said. "In this instance, we needed to do a better job in communicating what it means for real people's lives. They see this on the news. They drive under [the bridge]. We're saying the same thing."

Prolonged water penetration, he said, has caused spalling - the fragmenting of concrete, which can chip off and fall to the ground below. Kendall also said that contractors have been doing maintenance and upgrades on the train tracks but that the bridge, as a whole, is structurally sound.


On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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