Oct. 1 completion planned for track repairs
Ryan Summerlin September 21, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Union Pacific Railroad (UP) crews already have repaired one railroad track washout on the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies and are working to repair others in order to restore passenger train travel from Denver to Glenwood Springs by Oct. 1. At least that is the hoped-for deadline.
Freight trains have continued to travel through Glenwood Springs in the past few days, while Amtrak passenger trains have been missing because of track washouts caused by the recent torrential rains and subsequent catastrophic flooding to the north of Denver along the foothills.
Mark Davis, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said the freight trains “probably are serving the industries and businesses in the mountain areas,” traveling east to reach the customers and then reversing direction to get back to Grand Junction and points west or east.
But Amtrak, known as America’s Railroad because it is effectively the only passenger service operating throughout the U.S., has temporarily stopped service to Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction because of the track outages, and is now busing passengers to certain destinations.
Dawn Robison, a ticket agent at the Glenwood Springs Amtrak station, said she had not been told whether the station will be closed down while the trains aren’t running, but noted, “Amtrak is honoring current reservations, so buses will be stopping here. There are still a lot of phone calls to the station and people coming in for information.”
Statewide, Amtrak and UP are working to bring some degree of normalcy back to rail service.
“We’ve got 10, maybe a dozen areas where we’ve got repairs to do,” said Davis, referring to the numerous sections of rail that have been either completely washed out or have sustained sufficient damage from the floods that they have to be rebuilt.
“We’re looking at a minimum of two weeks to repair whatever needs to be done there,” he concluded.
In the meantime, according to Mark Magliari of Amtrak, the passenger trains that normally leave Denver to get to Glenwood Springs will be taking a new route west from Denver, through Salt Lake City, thereby serving passengers traveling between Chicago and San Francisco.
For passengers traveling to Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Green River, Utah, and other western destinations normally served by the Amtrak California Zephyr on its way to Salt Lake City, Magliari said, Amtrak is using chartered buses.
And for some Colorado destinations, such as Fraser/Winter Park and Granby, there will be no Amtrak service at all, according to Magliari.
In a written statement, Magliari remarked, “Local conditions prevent Amtrak from providing alternate transportation” to those two towns.
He noted that Amtrak is offering refunds or travel on a future date to passengers holding tickets to those destinations.
Magliari confirmed that a section of track between Denver and Greeley was out for three days but reopened on Wednesday, but said that section did not affect the agency’s use of the northern alternate route, which goes north from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyo., and then heads west to Salt Lake City.
“That’s about a 600-mile detour,” Magliari said of the northern route, noting that it is mostly being used by coal trains and Amtrak at this point.
Another section of Colorado railroads, from LaSalle to Fort Collins, also remains out of service because the tracks are too inundated for rail repair crews to see yet what damage has been done, Davis said.
Magliari said he has been receiving updates from UP about the work to repair the tracks, and noted hopefully, “We’re thinking the Oct. 1 date is looking very good” for resumption of passenger services to and through the central Rocky Mountains.