Union Pacific Railroad said it expects to reopen its California “Coast Line” and a rugged desert canyon line northeast of Las Vegas, Nev., for partial service as soon as Jan. 24. The two line segments are the last of five rail lines severely damaged by a record winter storm earlier this month.
“Our people have been working under very difficult conditions,” said Dick Davidson, UP chairman and CEO. “To call their efforts heroic would be an understatement.”
An embargo on traffic into California and Southern Nevada remains in place to control traffic into the region. “We have been working closely with our customers to assure that critical chemical, grain and coal shipments into the affected areas are being handled,” Davidson said. Outbound trains from the region are moving to work off the backlog of trains delayed by the storm.
The Coast Line was closed when the storm, along with torrential rain and heavy surf along the line triggered washouts, coastal sinkholes and covered the track with mud over a 139-mile stretch that runs next to the Pacific Ocean between Guadalupe and Moorpark, Calif.
“I want to thank the government agencies in California for their
cooperation in expediting the permits needed to allow the repair work,”
Davidson said. “We recognize this is a very sensitive environmental area and we are taking every precaution to protect it.”
The Coast Line links Los Angeles with the San Francisco Bay Area, serving as a passenger and commuter route. Even after the route is reopened to trains, there will be a slow start-up to finalize repair work for normal operations.
A work force of 150 people with 40 pieces of heavy earth-moving equipment has been deployed to the area working daylight to dark. Dozens of trucks worked overnight Monday night to repair the biggest washout. Most of the initial clean-up on the tracks has been completed with slope and embankment work underway. Two work trains with specialized equipment to clear mud from the line along with other mechanized work “gangs” are being moved into the
area to repair tracks.
In Nevada, Union Pacific has mobilized 200 personnel who are working
around the clock to repair storm damage over an 80-mile stretch in a remote canyon south of Caliente, Nev. They have 60 pieces of heavy equipment to restore the damaged roadbed. Work also is underway to build a new bridge to replace the Cottonwood Wash Bridge buried under up to six feet of mud and rock. The track will be raised 10 feet in this area.
The narrow canyon channeled floodwaters that washed the roadbed out from under the tracks in numerous locations and damaged bridges and signals. UP crews have had to rebuild washed-out roads in order to reach portions of the track. Seven work trains are hauling rock to fill the washouts from both ends of the canyon.
Caliente is about 130 miles northeast of Las Vegas, near the Utah state line. The route serves as a freight link between Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and the Midwest.
Union Pacific crews repaired other storm damage in Southern California last week, reopening critical rail links to the Los Angeles Basin.
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