'Do The Right Thing': Sherrod Brown Urges Norfolk Southern to Fix Crumbling Bridges in Cleveland

"You have a chance to fix past mistakes," Brown wrote

click to enlarge Control bridge - Norfolk Southern Cuyahoga River lift bridge - Tim Evanson/FlickrCC
Tim Evanson/FlickrCC
Control bridge - Norfolk Southern Cuyahoga River lift bridge

In tones of disappointment and censure, Sen. Sherrod Brown in a letter Tuesday demanded the president of Norfolk Southern to fork over a detailed plan to fix 16 "crumbling" bridges in the Cleveland area.

Citing personal anecdotes and local reportage, Brown ranted about the Norfolk-owned bridges and support beams "covered in graffiti" and "littered with debris and overgrowth." Alan Shaw, Norfolk Southern's Atlanta-based president and CEO, Brown claimed, has ignored the long-running need for repairs in their own infrastructure.

Brown centered his critique on what he saw during a recent jaunt to Edgewater. Specifically, the Lake Avenue Bridge, which was designated a city landmark in 2021.

"The bridge has had chunks of concrete and cast iron falling onto the road and sidewalk as trains pass overhead," Brown wrote, and that it "has mud oozing down its walls due to a dysfunctional, decades old drainage system."

Brown mentioned Norfolk's temporary solution —  adding plywood to Lake Avenue's underside — but that said plywood has since been found "lying on the sidewalk."

"There is no defensible excuse for failing to fix this bridge," Brown concluded. "Norfolk Southern must make swift improvements."

Ever since a train derailed outside East Palestine, Ohio, in March, leading to a mass evacuation of everyone in a one-mile radius, Norfolk Southern—and train derailments in general—have been in the crosshairs of politicians with environmental concerns.

Such a derailment, along with those outside Sandusky, Cleveland and Beaver County, Penns., have been met with an underwhelming response from the company, politicians have said.

Especially Shaw.  Shaw has said the railroad will add sensors and early-detection equipment to its fleet, while boosting safety training for first responders.

“Moving forward, Norfolk Southern will be known for safe operations,” Shaw said in a press release.

Two bills in the Ohio Congress, the Rail Safety Act and the RAIL Act, vow to make two-person crews on all trains required by law, along with requiring companies like Norfolk to plant wayside detection systems at least 15 miles apart. Bills that Shaw has told the press he's in support of.

Yet, on Tuesday, Sherrod Brown wasn't happy with a mere promise.

"You have a chance to fix past mistakes," he said. "And do the right thing to support local communities, and invest in the future of American rail infrastructure."

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About The Author

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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