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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week launched a new website feature that allows states and municipalities to request rail bridge inspection reports.The tool is one of the first provisions the FRA has implemented as part of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which Congress passed in December 2015. Additionally, the FRA announced it has requested additional resources in President Barack Obama's fiscal-year 2017 budget to double the agency's bridge specialist staff and create a national bridge inventory database and website, FRA officials said in a press release.Available information via the tool will include the date of a bridge's last inspection, as well as the bridge's length, location, type (superstructure and substructure), features crossed, general condition and railroad contact information.The FRA has repeatedly called on railroads to be more responsive and transparent with state and local leaders concerned about railroad bridge condition and safety, said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg."State and local officials will now be able to get more information from railroads on the infrastructure in their communities,” Feinberg said. "We hope Congress will provide the resources to double our bridge safety staff and create a national database."Freight railroads have been complying with the FAST Act measure, which provides a workable framework for them to provide pertinent inspection information as requested, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). "Freight railroads have been taking additional steps to enhance bridge information sharing, including having information readily available on their websites," AAR officials said in a prepared statement.The industry shares the FRA's commitment to safety and is "steadfast compliant" with federal regulations of rail bridges, they said."Qualified railroad bridge inspectors are meticulous in assessing a bridge's structural integrity and have deep expertise in assessing the safety of the many types of bridges in use today, including those made of timber, steel, concrete, stone and brick," the statement continued. "These bridge experts know the safety of a bridge has nothing to do with how good it looks on the outside and thoroughly scrutinize the structure to make sure it is safe, with no relationship to whether it is aesthetically pleasing."
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