BROCTON - The railroad bridge on Lake Avenue is halfway through repairs. The process Mayor J. Dale Abrams suggested was the bridge be powerwashed, then sprayed with concrete which would be covered with a layer of epoxy. The process would seal the concrete and prevent more bricks from falling off.
Abrams, during his first term in 2004, noticed the bridge was showing signs of wear. As more concrete came crumbling off he decided the best thing to do would be to contact Norfolk-Southern, but when they said "it's been looked at and we deemed it safe and sound" he let up on the issue. For then.
In 2007, Abrams again put the issue on the front burner. He called U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins and attempted to get more work on the bridge.
Donna Coughlin, Higgins' Jamestown representative, called Norfolk-Southern and told them the train bridge was indeed in a poor state of disrepair and should be repaired. This led to action. Norfolk-Southern powerwashed the bridge and removed loose pieces of concrete.
The tunnel serves both Norfolk-Southern and CSX railways. The north track is owned by CSX and has a brick core. The south track is concrete and, according to the Mayor, "poses a hazard to drivers using the one lane tunnel. There are pieces falling off it and whenever a train crosses, it shakes the tunnel.
The mayor questions the structural integrity of the railroad tunnel and started an initiative to get it fixed back in 2004, while in office for his first term as Brocton's mayor.
When he brought up safety risks to Norfolk-Southern they said they had inspected it and that it was OK.
The concrete Southern Tracks owned by Norfolk-Southern railroads (the first tunnel after taking a turn onto Lake Avenue from Route 20) are crumbling much quicker than the CSX side even though it doesn't get as many trains crossing it. The south tracks are used by about 18 to 20 trains a day, according to Abrams, and the tunnel on the northern side is used by about 80 trains daily but it has a brick core.
Lake Avenue is a county road (Route 380) and is serviced by Chautauqua County.
The outside of the tunnel has been powerwashed recently so, for the time being, and the structure is still sound. A cave-in is virtually impossible and the outside stripped of loose debris, vehicles driving through the tunnel will not be hit by debris for the time being, but it is essentially an egg without a shell.
After working with Coughlin, the mayor was under the impression that they were going to do the complete repair; striping the loose concrete; powerwashing it; sealing it back off with gunnite; and topped off with a layer of epoxy paint.
In June, Norfolk-Southern sent workers to do the repair. The Mayor and the Norfolk-southern's estimate was approximately two weeks of work to finish the job but after four days, they called the job finished.
Brocton's Mayor recognized the problem and called Higgins' Jamestown office. The idea was passed around in Higgins' office and they eventually put pressure on the railroads to complete the repair.
According to Mayor Abrams, Higgin's Buffalo office emailed him saying that the job would be completed next year.
When Mayor Abrams called the Jamestown office again he told him that he thought the bridge would be finished. Congressman Higgins' office said they weren't sure why it wasn't finished. Later they called back and said that they don't have the money in this year's budget to finish it.
Jamestown representative Donna Coughlin said that although the bridge crosses county roads, it is the railroads job to fix it.
Coughlin said that after Abrams contacted them, they brought the problem to the attention of Norfolk-Southern.
Coughlin said, "there was talk going on about fixing it, but we just asked that they take the loose stuff off. It's the Railroad's responsibility so we got in touch with them."