City Councilman Curtis Jones says he plans to hold hearings early next year on the state of Amtrak's deteriorating rail bridges in Philadelphia.

Jones, chairman of Council's committee on transportation and public utilities, said he would introduce today a resolution to authorize hearings.

The Inquirer reported in September that Amtrak inspection reports showed that nearly half of Amtrak's 302 bridges in the Philadelphia region have some elements rated "poor" or worse.

One of those is the massive, 108-year-old bridge over 52d Street in Jones' West Philadelphia district. Trees grow from the ramparts, water seeps through the stone walls, holes are visible in the rusting deck, piers are cracked, and beams are corroding.

"When you look up, you can see clear through to the tracks," Jones said yesterday. "I carry around a railroad spike that dropped from the tracks down to the street."

Jones said Amtrak "has been pretty nonresponsive" to his requests for repairs to the bridge, and he hopes hearings will prompt the railroad to take action.

"It is clear to me that Amtrak is not properly maintaining their property, and it is having a detrimental effect on the surrounding neighborhood," Jones said.

Amtrak's inspections of 302 bridges in Southeastern Pennsylvania show that 143 - 47 percent - received "poor" or lower marks for such defects as deteriorated metal plates or decaying stone walls. Some have eroded support piers, others badly worn girder elements and missing rivets.

Amtrak officials say the bridges remain safe for travel. But decades of deferred maintenance mean the aging bridges will require hundreds of millions of dollars to bring them into good repair.

Jones said federal stimulus money could be used to help fix the bridges and provide jobs in a community where unemployment is high.