Michigan-Ontario rail tunnel re-opens after June derailment and acid spill

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The last Canadian National last detour train on CSX Transportation, X900-08 rolls past the Wabtec test track in Harborcreek, Pa., bringing to an end more than a week’s worth of detours on three railroads in the region.
Stephan Koenig
ERIE, Pa. — Canadian National confirms that the St. Clair Tunnel at Sarnia, Ontario, is open for rail traffic once more.

A railroad representative says that the company laid new tracks in the tunnel connecting Sarnia, in southern Ontario and Port Huron in eastern Michigan. At least one train cleared the tunnel by Tuesday evening. Radio chatter on Tuesday indicated that the tunnel was to re-open about 6 p.m. Eastern time.

The tunnel was closed to trains June 28 when about 40 cars derailed in the tunnel, spilling sulfuric acid. Canadian National crews and contractors re-laid track in the tunnel and removed or neutralized the acid, the representative tells Trains in an email.

"The spill caused no harm to the environment or to public safety as it was completely contained to the site of the derailment. The tunnel suffered only minor cosmetic damage and there was no impact to its structural integrity," the CN representative says. "CN is working in full collaboration with the Canadian Transportation Safety Board who are leading the investigation into the derailment."

The St. Clair tunnel lies underneath the St. Clair River, downstream from Lake Huron and upstream from Lake Erie. The lakes are major drinking water sources for millions of people in the region.

Despite the tunnel's re-opening, the backlog of traffic on both sides continues as CN did at least one more re-route across CSX Transportation tracks from Toledo, Ohio, to Buffalo, N.Y., with train Q122 arriving at Fort Erie, Ont., earlier on July 9. It ran on CSX as an X900 symbol train.

The tunnel's re-opening also brings to an end of one of the longest and most diverse periods of re-routes in the Lake Erie region in recent years with CN being forced to place traffic on Canadian Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern routes for more than a week.

Through the period it was possible to see CN trains meeting on the parallel NS and CSX lines along the Lake Erie shores in upstate New York.

Traffic is expected to return to normal on both sides of Lake Erie in the coming days.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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