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Railroad reports not public record

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 22:58:27-04

TEMPE, AZ — Documents and information related to an early-July inspection on the Tempe railroad bridge that collapsed Wednesday morning are not public records.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) confirmed to ABC15 that railroad bridge inspections are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The federal government allows railroad companies to maintain and inspect their own bridges with some federal oversight and occasional audits.

Under federal law, only state or local government officials can obtain copies of inspection reports, which are completed and kept by the railroad companies themselves.

Tempe officials have not yet responded to multiple requests from ABC15 about whether the city has requested and obtained past inspections for the bridge that crosses over Tempe Town Lake.

According to statements from Union Pacific, the bridge had an inspection on July 9.

However, the company did not release information about the results. The railroad also confirmed there was another derailment on June 26, involving 12 railcars.

Residents in the area said they have seen crews working on the tracks for the past several weeks.

Some other states’ department of transportation, including Arizona’s neighbor Colorado, conduct their own inspections of railroad bridges.

An Arizona Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed to ABC15 that the agency does not inspect railroad bridges in our state.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at