Freeport pushing for train tunnel repairs
Freeport officials will seek a commitment from Norfolk Southern railroad to repair the deterioration of railroad tunnels in the borough.
At the request of Mayor Jim Swartz, council President Ricky Hastings and Borough Secretary Carol Crytzer will try to set up a meeting with railroad officials to discuss the problem.
The Norfolk Southern rail line runs parallel to the Allegheny River and Riverside Drive. The tunnels allow Second through Sixth streets to cross under the railroad's active freight line and intersect with Riverside Drive.
“They are just deteriorating to the point where they (Norfolk Southern) need to come up with a game plan on what they are going to do and give it to us,” Swartz said.
However, officials with Norfolk Southern say those tunnels are not scheduled for any rehabilitation.
“At this time, we have no planned work for the bridges,” said Susan Terpay, Norfolk Southern spokeswoman.
However, Terpay added, “Norfolk Southern will look into any questions the mayor has about the (tunnels).”
Terpay said that some parts of the tunnels — clearance signs, lighting, sidewalks and the streets below — are the responsibility of the borough to maintain, while the tunnels belong to the railroad.
According to Terpay, those tunnels are inspected on a regular basis.
“Every one of the 9,430 bridges across our 22-state, 19,500-mile network — including more than 1,460 in Pennsylvania — are inspected annually,” she said.
Despite those inspections, the tunnels in question are clearly deteriorating. Visible damage includes several cracks in the concrete as well as rusted and broken steel supports.
In March, Swartz told council that a resident came to him with three railroad spikes he said he found while walking through one of the tunnels. He said the spikes apparently fell from the rail line through the tunnel roof.
At that time, Swartz said, he contacted railroad officials, who told him they were aware of the problem and promised to correct it.
Apparently, that hasn't happened.
For example, Swartz said the rain gutter for the Fifth Street tunnel is broken and will soak anyone trying to walk through the tunnel during a rainstorm.
The tunnel problem becomes even more pronounced during cold weather, according to Swartz, who said that large icicles form when water flows through cracks in the tunnels during winter months, causing hazards for vehicles and pedestrians.