CSX plans re­mote op­er­a­tion for bridge

Union rep­re­sen­ta­tive voices con­cerns about traf­fic and safety haz­ards

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Vo­gel­song Staff Writer

HOPEWELL — As CSX moves to con­vert a swing bridge over the Ap­po­mat­tox near An­chor Point from on site to re­mote op­er­a­tion, the union rep­re­sent­ing rail work­ers has raised con­cerns about po­ten­tial traf­fic and safety haz­ards.

Todd Tay­lor, vice chair­man of the Al­lied Fed­er­a­tion of the Brother­hood of Main­te­nance of Way Em­ploy­ees, a divi­sion of the Team­sters union, is re­quest­ing that Hopewell City Coun­cil pass an or­di­nance man­dat­ing that CSX keep a bridge ten­der on site.

“Pretty much any­thing within 1.9 miles of that bridge lo­ca­tion, there’s a pos­si­bil­ity it’ll get locked up,” said Tay­lor.

Cur­rently, three CSX em­ploy­ees are posted at the Hopewell swing bridge, which typ­i­cally re­mains closed un­less no­ti­fied by boat traf­fic re­quir­ing more than 10-foot clear­ance. Ac­cord­ing to Tay­lor, the Hopewell bridge has been plagued by prob­lems re­lock­ing cor­rectly dur­ing clo­sure, which are ex­ac­er­bated by sum­mer heat caus­ing the rails to ex­pand.

“Pretty much any­thing within 1.9 miles of that bridge lo­ca­tion, there’s a pos­si­bil­ity it’ll get locked up.” Todd Tay­lor, vice chair­man of the Al­lied Fed­er­a­tion of the Brother­hood of Main­te­nance of Way Em­ploy­ees, a divi­sion of the Team­sters union

“Bridge Ten­ders since the bridge was opened in 1924 have had is­sues with heat ex­pan­sion,” Tay­lor wrote in an email. “In fact a bucket low­ered into the cool river wa­ter and then dumped out over the rails has been a com­mon prac­tice to help re­solve the is­sue for many decades.”

With three on-site per­son­nel, ad­just­ments can be made to en­sure that the bridge closes cor­rectly, but Tay­lor fears that if the bridge is switched to re­mote op­er­a­tion, clo­sure mal­func­tions will cause long de­lays that will stall trains at the bridge, block­ing road cross­ings at River Road, Mesa Drive and Danville Street, not only im­ped­ing the flow of res­i­dent traf­fic but also de­lay­ing the trans­porta­tion of goods and ma­te­ri­als from the city’s in­dus­tries, many of which rely on rail.

CSX spokesper­son Rob Doolitte, how­ever, stated that un­der re­mote op­er­a­tion, which CSX is co­or­di­nat­ing with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Hopewell bridge will be fit­ted with cam­eras and sen­sors that will al­low the safe flow of both train and river traf­fic.

“The re­mote op­er­a­tion of mov­able bridges is a safe and proven prac­tice cur­rently in use across the trans­porta­tion in­dus­try and on the CSX net­work,” Doolit­tle wrote in a state­ment.

He also noted that the trans­porta­tion com­pany reg­u­larly in­spects its bridges at least once a year and in­spects track on the bridge “weekly.”

CSX’s time­line for com­ple­tion of the bridge’s con­ver­sion from on site to re­mote op­er­a­tion has not yet been fi­nal­ized.

The trans­porta­tion com­pany has come un­der fire this sum­mer from the fed­eral Sur­face Trans­porta­tion Board, which has sent CSX sev­eral let­ters re­gard­ing “grow­ing con­cerns” about dis­rup­tions and de­lays along the rail lines as a re­sult of “on­go­ing op­er­at­ing changes un­der­way at CSX Trans­porta­tion.” — Sarah Vo­gel­song may be reached at svo­gel­song@progress-in­dex. com or 804-722-5154.

[SCOTT P. YATES/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

A man stands at the Hopewell swing bridge over the Ap­po­mat­tox near An­chor Point on Septem­ber 24, 2016. CSX is plan­ning to con­vert the bridge from manned to re­mote op­er­a­tion.

[SCOTT P. YATES/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

A CSX em­ployee stands at the Hopewell swing bridge over the Ap­po­mat­tox near An­chor Point on Septem­ber 24, 2016. CSX is plan­ning to con­vert the bridge from manned to re­mote op­er­a­tion.

[SARAH VO­GEL­SONG/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

A CSX em­ployee at the Hopewell swing bridge over the Ap­po­mat­tox near An­chor Point Aug. 11. CSX is plan­ning to con­vert the bridge from manned to re­mote op­er­a­tion.

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