Floodwaters hamper railroad clean-up from Hurricane Harvey in Houston

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BNSF Railway crews are re-ballasting track near the end of a bridge in Conroe, Texas, on Aug. 31.
BNSF Railway
HOUSTON — Hurricane Harvey's landfall brought an unprecedented 50 inches of rain to certain areas of the Gulf Coast in Texas in late August. Railroads serving the area have begun assessing the damage and carrying out repairs, but more than a week later, certain stretches of the network are still inaccessible due to high water.

Union Pacific officials say their railroad sustained severe damage to numerous portions of its network in and around Houston. In a series of news releases, company officials said that tracks remain out of service in Beaumont, Texas, due to high water and a large washout near Angleton, Texas. Certain repairs may take months to complete, particularly damaged bridges near Humble and Angleton. The company is continuing to inspect and repair damage to signals, grade crossings and tracks throughout the Gulf area.

Hurricane Harvey left the majority of major roads and highways in the Houston area impassible. That, combined with trains being directed along different paths to avoid out-of-service stretches, has created difficulty in managing train crews.

"Where routes are open and crews are available, the Southern Region of our network is operating trains at normal levels," Union Pacific officials wrote in a news release. "Where feasible, crews are signing up and training on temporary work location assignments to assist with the recovery effort."

Kansas City Southern managers said on Sept. 4 that its Beaumont subdivision remains out of service, as the flooded Sabine River has only recently receded enough to permit access to the tracks. The company said that while "assessment of the subdivision is in full swing," there is no estimate as to when it will be reopened.

KCS also announced that it has reopened the Rosenburg Subdivision, though with 10-mph speed restrictions in place due to "saturated conditions of the land and continued repair work." The company expects that reopening this subdivision will allow cross-border traffic to resume.

BNSF's latest system updates released on Sept. 1 says that rail access into the Houston area from subdivisions to the north and west has been mostly restored and activities have resumed at most of the company's facilities. However, the company's subdivisions and rail yards in Beaumont remain out-of-service and the company is currently unable to operate trains between eastern Texas and Louisiana.

All three Class I railroads serving the Texas coast issued service embargoes and annulments on trains moving in and out of the area.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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