Railway reopens through Glenwood Canyon to freight travel following debris flows | PostIndependent.com

Railway reopens through Glenwood Canyon to freight travel following debris flows

Commercial service to reopen Friday, Amtrak official said

The Glenwood Springs Amtrak station sits empty on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Echoes of footsteps and cacophonies of bustling passengers commonly found inside Glenwood Springs’ train station were replaced by eerie silence on Wednesday as the closure of Glenwood Canyon continues to prevent both rail and roadway traffic.

After suspending commercial departures and arrivals east of Grand Junction and west of Denver since July 29, Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said reopening the Glenwood Springs station to commercial train travel is now expected for Friday.

“We are planning for tomorrow’s departures to operate through to their destinations,” he said. “That means service in both directions on Friday in Colorado.”

Magliari said Amtrak has had to reach out to passengers who already bought tickets to inform them there’s a temporary track closure, asking them if they’d like to rebook tickets without penalty.

Wednesday morning, the track reopened to freight train travel only, UP spokesperson Robynn Tysver said.

“Union Pacific crews finished clearing debris and repairing the track Tuesday afternoon damaged by last week’s mudslide through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado,” she said in an email. “The track reopened this morning to traffic, with the first freight trains going through at about 6 a.m. MDT.”

Amtrak officials originally put the kibosh on train travel in the area after heavy rains hit the Grizzly Creek burn scar late last week, causing significant debris flows. The natural phenomenon was so epic, it soon trapped more than 100 motorists either in the Hanging Lake Tunnels area or in the nearby Bair Ranch exit, where they had to wait until crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation plowed their way through the carnage in an effort to evacuate them.

Typically, the train service runs one passenger train both ways each day through Glenwood Springs. Called the California Zephyr line, which runs between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area, August and late summer are one of its busiest seasons of the year, Magliari said.

“Those trains, normally in this season, would have 200 or more customers on them, passing through Glenwood Springs, passing through Fraser, dropping down to Denver — or coming the other way on their way to (Grand) Junction,” he said. “So, yeah, it’s a busy season for us, and ordinarily there’s a couple hundred people, if not more on these trains.”

For travelers who were stranded due to the closures, CDOT did alter the detour route for Bustang bus service in an effort to circumvent the Glenwood Canyon closure and eventually get people to their desired destinations.

“In my more than 20 years here, have I seen disruptions? Sure. We’ve had disruptions in California due to wildfires. We have disruptions from time to time, and we have people whose job it is to manage that,” Magliari said. “Sure it’s disappointing, you know, to hundreds of customers. But I think they understand, especially if they’ve seen any of the pictures of what I-70 looks like and what we’re facing out there.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

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