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Cleveland Law Department issues 99 violations for poor conditions at railroad bridges, properties

Misdemeanor violations sent to CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads for falling concrete, high weeds, graffiti issues
Posted at 10:36 PM, Sep 05, 2023

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland and its law department are getting tough on both CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad companies for what it called poor conditions at bridges and railroad-owned properties citywide.

The city issued first-degree misdemeanor violations at 99 locations in all parts of Cleveland for falling and crumbling concrete, high weeds, graffiti and more.

Cleveland Slavic Village resident Travis Layton told News 5 he's concerned about safety every time he drives under the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge spanning over Broadway Avenue near Harvard; one of the bridges issued a city violation.

“This bridge here it’s terrible; when it rains, it rains down on my car," Layton said. “Concrete can fall down on your windshield, and what, you’re going to have an accident, people behind you are going to wreck; they can't leave it like that."

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David Roberts, chief assistant director of law for code enforcement, told News 5 the violations are part of a general, aggressive code enforcement approach established by Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb to force companies to meet their responsibilities.

“We’re not actually citing them to repair the bridges, that’s a federal requirement, and we have turned them into the federal government to say you need to come out and inspect these bridges," Roberts said. "But even if they want to say that it’s not very serious to have one bridge with graffiti and weeds and crumbling concrete, that’s serious to us; that’s someone’s neighborhood, someone walks through there, someone drives through there.”

Roberts said the city has also contacted the Federal Railroad Administration, urging the federal agency to conduct structural inspections of all railroad bridges in Cleveland.

CSX responded to our story and issued the following statement concerning the city violations:

CSX’s top priority is the safety and security of our operations, which includes the inspection and maintenance of our bridges and infrastructure. CSX’s bridges are maintained to federal standards and are regularly inspected to ensure their structural integrity. We have been in regular contact with officials in Cleveland regarding on this matter and just last week conducted a tour of our bridges in the city with a group of state officials to address any concerns.
We are reviewing the violations and will respond appropriately.

Norfolk Southern also responded to our story with the following statement:

Our bridges in Ohio are often landmarks in our local communities – and how they look can be a resident’s first perception of how safe they are. In Ohio, we’ve invested $100 million in installation, rehabilitation, and replacement projects over the last five years. In the next five, we anticipate more than $240 million in bridge projects in the state, many of which are referenced in recent reports. While those take time, we’ve been working with local officials to understand and address concerns alongside regular inspections under FRA standards to ensure our bridges remain safe. 

Roberts said the Cleveland Law Department is prepared to move forward on all violations in Cleveland Housing Court if repairs and improvements aren't started by Sep. 12.

“If they’re found guilty in the housing court, they could be fined $5,000 a day per violation notice, and each day is a violation," Roberts said. "It's easy enough to stop the chucks of concrete from falling; it doesn’t take that long to do that.”

News 5 is committed to following through on this developing story.

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