ELK COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) —The safety of a railroad in Elk County has recently raised concerns from residents surrounding the area. 

A Facebook group of Johnsonburg residents questioned the structural integrity of the railroad bridge, which is operated by the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad (BPRR). They wonder if the bridge has been kept up to date.

The post caught the attention of state leaders, including State Representative of the 75th district Mike Armanini, who is now involved to find a resolution on the structural safety of the railroad, and coordinated with the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad to visit Johnsonburg and speak with residents. And on Tuesday, Johnsonburg residents gathered to voice concerns over the structural integrity of a 103-year-old railroad bridge in town.

“They do have some cosmetic issues that they plan on fixing in the near future,” Rep. Mike Armanini said. “This is something that you have to immediately take a look at just to make sure that there’s no neglect going on.”

In a statement released to WTAJ last week, the BPRR said the tracks are not currently in use, and added that the bridge’s structural integrity is unrelated to its cosmetic appearance. 

The BPRR released a statement to WTAJ which said: 

“BPRR bridges are inspected at least annually, per FRA requirements, and the Johnsonburg bridge is safe. The track that runs over the bridge is currently out-of-service, but new rail and crossties were installed on that track within the last two years.”

In the following days, however, residents sent several videos of trains traveling over the bridge. And today, BPRR vice president of engineering Todd Dragland said just one of the two tracks spanning the bridge is in service and reassured residents that the bridge is safe.

But for residents who drive underneath the Center St. railroad, its looks are concerning. 

“Is the structural soundness okay? Is the train going to derail?” Ferguson said. “It’s a bridge, it’s like a kid magnet, and being along the sidewalk, in a busy parking lot it does attract a lot of kids and it is dangerous under there.”

“Pretty bad shape, the uprights and all that. If you look at it, a lot of them are rusted to pieces” said Frank Repko, another concerned resident. “I’d say this bridge definitely needs a lot of work done to it.”

BPRR also told WTAJ the railroad is up to date with inspections. In order to view an inspection report, any individual can file a report through the Federal Railroad Administration.

Engineers answered questions about the railroad’s safety, as well as discussed some of the work they will do to repair the deterioration of redundant sections of the bridge. Dragland said repairs to the bridge were already scheduled to be made prior to this issue being brought forward. The project will get underway as early as the new year.

“Thankfully, today, after the railroad explained to them, and the very thorough inspections that are done on the bridge, it is 100% safe,” Armanini said.

Representative Armani said repairs for the bridge will get underway in 2022. A plan he was told was in play prior to the community’s concern.

Also in the BPPR’s statement to WTAJ, the rail service said: 

“A bridge’s structural integrity is unrelated to its cosmetic appearance, which is why professional engineers should be the only ones evaluating a bridge’s condition.”

Get daily updates on local news, weather and sports by signing up for the WTAJ Newsletter