Thursday, February 16, 2017

More rain whipsaws BNSF with outages in NorCal, PNW

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Railway Age file photo. Railway Age file photo.

High water blocked BNSF's Lakeside Subdivision between Spokane and Pasco, Wash., Thursday in the twisting, narrow Hatton Coulee between Hatton and Connell.

Amtrak 27, the Portland section of the Empire Builder, stopped just east of the affected area at Cunningham, before BNSF dispatched a pair of locomotives to pull the train back east to Spokane. BNSF has suspended all freight traffic between Spokane and Pasco and currently has at least one work train headed toward the flooded area.

The Lakeside Sub carries the majority of BNSF's Northern Corridor traffic west of Spokane where its easier grades make it the preferred route for westbound loaded grain, coal, and oil, as well as general merchandise moving east and west. BNSF in a service advisory offered no timeframe for reopening the route.

The steeper Stevens Pass route via Wenatchee handles the larger share of BNSF's Pacific Northwest intermodal traffic.

Elsewhere, a key BNSF Pacific Northwest route into northern California remains closed amid ongoing flooding from recent rains.

With more rain expected in the area, the carrier in a service advisory warned customers to expect re-routings and delays.

Heavy rain and melting snow from the Sierra Nevada this past week caused track washouts north and east of Sacramento. A significant track outage affected traffic to and from the Pacific Northwest and California.

The railroad on Feb. 11 restored service on its Gateway Subdivision between Klamath Falls, Ore., and Keddie, Calif., but its primary north-south route remains closed between Keddie and other California locations. Some BNSF employees were caught up in the mass evacuations around the Oroville Dam, the railroad added.

Blizzardsand avalanches shut down BNSF's Northern Corridor through Montana earlier this month.

Facing more expected rain and extended track outages, BNSF said it is re-routing Pacific Northwest-California train flows until further notice.

“Some trains will now move across the North, through Colorado and utilize the Southern Transcon[tinental route],” the advisory stated. “Customers tracing their freight may notice nonstandard routings, locations and interchanges. This traffic re-routing could lead to longer overall transit times by several days compared to normal conditions.”

–with contributions by Bruce Kelly

bnsfFeb14 2017