Do you feel safe oil/ethanol trains going through town?
Do you feel safe? The rail road bridge at Milton Creek was built around 1898 that makes it 116 years old. The federal rail road inspectors claim that the bridge is in safe condition. But when asked how old the bridge was they could not answer that question. Pretty important stuff if you are a bridge inspector. There are missing parts on the bridge and when building iron bridges there are no unnecessary parts, unless it is an ornamental hand rail for example. P&W claims that even though the bridge looks rusty that rust has nothing to do with its condition.
Others happen to disagree with their rail analysis. Oregon Department of Transportation - Rail Division Oregon, Oregon Rail Study Appendix B, Oregon Rail Bridge Assessments, Report of Study Findings Prepared by: David Evans and Associates. Summary of conditions find that P&W has 44 bridges good condition, 70 fair condition, and 11 poor condition.
Summary by Railroad of Costs to Upgrade or Repair to Achieve 286,000 Pound Capacity at 10 MPH if you take notice P&W trains do not travel at speeds of 10 miles per hour, they do considerably less possibly because the bridge would not pass inspection if the train traveled any faster and due to train weight and condition of bridge. For example; P&W Bridge 743.27 the last available report was from 1977. The 1977 reports were not considered reliable for comparison due to the 31 year time gap. There were no current steel reports provided for P&W Bridge 743.27. The point I am making is that P&W does not take the necessary steps to inspect their rail bridges where ever they have rail bridges in Oregon.
Opinion of State of Maintenance. Planning Level Rail Bridge Condition Rating Guide:
Table 8: Steel Bridge Condition Guide
STEEL PRIMARY MEMBERS: TRUSS TOP AND BOTTOM CHORDS, TRUSS DIAGONALS, TRUSS
HANGERS AND POSTS, GIRDERS, FLOOR BEAMS, CAPS AND PILES
Rating for Planning Study Purposes Definition of Rating
Good Condition Paint system may be showing early signs of distress. There is little or no active corrosion. There is no exposed metal.
Fair Condition Paint system is failing. There is exposed metal with moderate to heavy surface rust. There may be minor section loss.
Poor Condition Paint system has failed. Extensive corrosion section loss in steel members. Fatigue or out-of-plane bending cracks may be present in critical areas. Load capacity of bridge may be affected .Findings Poor Condition: Available information indicates that the overall condition of the bridge segment appears to have significant deficiencies where the load capacity may be affected.
Anyone who gets a good look at the Milton Creek rail road bridge can see that the bridge is in POOR Condition. Again I suspect that is why the trains have been slowed down, so the bridge can absorb the deflection of the train weight and not put undue stress on the 116 year old structure. There is obvious rust, rust /metal flaking and apparently there has been no maintenance eon this bridge for decades.
Willamette & Pacific (W&P) Railroad
Even though a standard inspection report is provided, the level of effort or performance level of these inspections is not defined. There is uncertainty concerning the completeness of the inspections.
Conditions of timber members are given by an undefined code.
Not all stringer sizes are provided.
No conditions of steel members are provided.
Minimal maintenance history available.
No photographs were provided.
Vertical clearance for thru trusses not given.
The study team conducted several visual inspections of the bridges on this line.
Another aspect of the safe load carrying capacity of the structures is the speed at which the standard load can be moved across. Freight railroads, especially short line railroads, routinely slow down when crossing potentially substandard bridges. This is because the amount of dynamic impact load is reduced at slower speeds, thereby allowing a greater safety factor when crossing potentially unsafe bridges. ODOT Rail Division has set a minimum design speed of 10 MPH for determination of the upgrade or repair necessary to render the current capacity greater than or equal to the 286,000 pound load effects.
Opinion of Expected Bridge Lifespan Age of the bridge. The year built is used to estimate the likelihood of existing but undetected deterioration that could further reduce the life. Several bridges have undergone replacement of various original members. The remaining original members are likely still the controlling consideration for determining the bridge's remaining life span. Deterioration of the steel in bridges was found to be mainly due to the paint system failure and the subsequent corrosion and section loss in members. As the deterioration of material progresses with time, the rate of condition change is estimated to increase. That is, the period of time to change condition from fair to poor is less than that to change from good to fair. As protective systems or mechanisms reach their life expectancy, the exposure of the bridge member to deteriorating elements is increased.
Findings made available for ODOT Rail Division and the public is a very important document. This document provides critical information regarding our rail systems and their maintenance. Since Columbia County has seen an immense growth of rail traffic due to the crude oil trains. And it has been proven through massive train derailments which have happened all over the United States, that the crude is extremely volatile. it is important that the citizens demand that all rail structures are modern and that they are inspected regularly. One derailment at Milton Creek rail Road Bridge would be catastrophic for the town, residents, and businesses of St. Helens. The rail explosion would kill thousands and would burn until it burnt itself out. There is no way to put out a crude oil explosion you can only try and maintain it. St. Helens does not have the man power or equipment to deal with an event like this.
Furthermore it is very important to make sure that P&W does its job to make sure the public is safe if they are going to do business in our county and so far they have not done a very good job. Before any type of volatile product is railed through our county all safety measures should be done first.
P&W receives millions in Connect Oregon funds and most likely other tax abatements which are funded by us the taxpayers, and then if we have to funds these corporations then we should be made safe with our money.
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