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Concrete Falls from Syracuse Rail Bridge

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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A portion of a railroad bridge collapsed in downtown Syracuse, New York, last Thursday (July 5), with engineers arriving to investigate the issue a few days after.

Part of the concrete viaduct, located near the intersection of Gifford and South Clinton streets, collapsed to the street below, breaking a light pole and toppling wires. The damage was restricted to a sidewall next to the railroad tracks, according to

Railroad Bridge History

The railroad bridge in question was reportedly part of the most ambitious building projects in the city’s history—work to elevate tracks for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western line, which came after the elevation of the New York Central Railroad was finished in 1936.

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western tracks averaged 35-40 trains per day at the time; construction began in 1940, and elevated the tracks to cross over 22 streets, costing $97 million in today’s currency. The majority of the bridges built were through plate girder spans with concrete floors.

One exception—a deck girder span—was the bridge that collapsed last week. The girders measure 130 feet in length and 12 feet in height, weighing 130 tons each.

Sidewall Collapse

A spokesperson for the Upstate New York railroad company said that a train was delayed at the time of the incident. Two trains a day use the viaduct on average. A concrete date for reopening the span has yet to be determined.

Spokesperson Melanie Boyer confirmed, as did the Department of Transportation, to that the viaduct is inspected by the New York, Susquehanna & Western railroad. According to Boyer, inspection happens once a year.

Each of the two sections that fell is estimated to be 60 feet long.

"I think the term 'collapse' is appropriate when a section of an entire span falls from a bridge, especially into a public area," Gordon Davids, retired bridge inspector for the Federal Railroad Administration, told "In my experience, I have never seen or heard of pieces this large falling from a bridge, so I had assumed it was just a 'big chunk of concrete.'"

The FRA does random checks of bridges and focuses on areas of concern while working with local private railroads. Inspectors like Davids are primarily concerned with making sure the tracks themselves are safe for use. The New York, Susquehanna & Western railroad does weekly inspections, but these also focus on tracks.

In light of the incident, decorative concrete on 17 pieces of the railroad bridge will be removed this week. The fascia is not load-bearing, but it does help prevent concrete from falling into the street. Concrete barriers will be installed in the meantime to protect passerby.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; concrete; Federal Railroad Administration; Infrastructure; Rail

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