PAULSBORO, N.J. - November 30, 2012 (WPVI) -- A freight train derailed Friday on an old railroad bridge that has had problems before, toppling two tanker cars partially into a creek and causing a leak of hazardous gas that was blamed for sickening dozens of people, authorities said.
Members of the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in New Jersey on Friday afternoon to investigate. They will try to determine whether it was a problem with the bridge that caused the derailment or the derailment that is to blame for the partial bridge collapse.
The accident happened just after 7 a.m. when a train with two locomotives, 82 freight cars and a caboose made its way from Camden to the industrial town of Paulsboro, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia International Airport.
Cars went off the rails on a swing-style bridge, owned by Conrail, over Mantua Creek.
One tanker containing 32,000 pounds of vinyl chloride was sliced open in the accident and some of the gas spewed into the air, while the rest turned into a solid and settled into the bottom of the tanker.
Despite the urgency of this crisis, US spending on infrastructure is projected to fall short by $139 billion or more over the next decade. Meanwhile, Republicans have pushed for a devastating cut of $871 billion in infrastructure investment.
Paulsboro Mayor Burzichelli apparently reached out to Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for expedited repairs to the Mantua Creek bridge in 2009. Lautenberg introduced a bill in 2011 to encourage private investment in infrastructure and bolster federal funding. The bill, unfortunately, went nowhere.
As Paulsboro struggles to clean up this most recent mess, it’s worth remembering that infrastructure investment is not only desperately needed, but would also provide a huge boost to the economy. A new study found that every dollar invested in infrastructure has a return for state economies of at least $2. The effects are even more pronounced during an economic downturn.
UPDATE: Area residents are still in danger.