PUEBLO COUNTY — All lanes of I-25 are now open Thursday evening according to the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office.
The reopening of the interstate came nearly four days after a deadly train derailment, crews have been working around the clock to clear, clean, and fix the affected area. Slower speeds are advised in the area as crews are still on scene performing work.
Governor Polis visited the site of the derailment and provided an update on the cleanup process on Wednesday.
“We are going to have southbound open within just a couple hours here. It’ll be open by this evening. Northbound will be open tomorrow," said Polis.
As far as the bridge is concerned, Polis said, "BNSF is stepping up to replace the bridge. They will be moving one segment of bridge from another state to complete the connection. That, as I said, will require additional highway closures of up to 24 hours in a few weeks. We want to work to minimize the impact to residents during that period.”
Governor Polis also addressed the new bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying, “The biggest part of the rail funds in the bipartisan infrastructure bill are safety related. Many of them require state matches and those are just starting to get out.”
CDOT Communications Director, Matt Inzeo, also spoke about which organization was responsible for the bridge and its maintenance. Inzeo said, "“CDOT continues to look through documentation dating back to the late 50’s regarding roles, responsibility and ownership with this bridge structure.”
“The last CDOT inspection was in 2022; however, we don’t have information regarding the regular inspections and maintenance that BNSF would have performed as they would normally do by running trains over the structure...BNSF would have primary responsibilities regarding inspection and maintenance because of the fact that they are the ones operating rail service over that line.”
According to preliminary information released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a broken rail just east of the bridge over I-25 caused the BNSF Railway coal train to derail Sunday. NTSB also believes that the bridge partially collapsed following the derailment.
Investigators will continue to determine the cause of the broken rail and why warning systems did not alert crews to the condition of the track.
Several cars were off the rails and in lanes of I-25, along with several tons of coal through parts of Tuesday. The northbound lanes of I-25 appear to be impacted the most with whole or damaged rail cars in the roadway. There is no current estimate on when this area will be reopened as crews work to clean debris on the interstate.
The derailment was deadly as 60-year-old Lafollette Henderson from Compton, California died after the bridge partially collapsed on a semi he was driving.
The NTSB told News5 that a total of 30 cars derailed Sunday afternoon. They also said an investigative team from the NTSB arrived on the scene Tuesday to begin their investigation. They expect a preliminary report to be available within 30 days, but the final report from the investigative team is not expected to be completed for 1-2 years.
In a statement Monday, Governor Jared Polis said he has been in meetings with Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation, and is hoping to have debris cleared within 48 hours to continue an investigation.
I am saddened that a life was lost in this train derailment and send my condolences to his family and loved ones. I have been briefed by CDOT and yesterday I spoke directly to Secretary Buttigieg and BNSF, the operator of the train. Our immediate priority is safely getting the highway open both ways. CDOT Director Shoshana Lew and federal officials are on the ground in Pueblo and I am receiving updates directly from the team onsite and plan to receive an onsite briefing this week once our state debris-clearing work has begun. We cannot begin our work to reopen the highway until the National Transportation Safety Board clears us to proceed and I urged Secretary Buttigieg to allow us to conduct debris removal as soon as possible. It is estimated that the debris removal phase could take as long as 48 hours, but I am ensuring that we are doing everything we can to complete it more quickly, including beginning preparations now so we can begin as soon as we are allowed to and save precious hours. Our administration has been working for months to position Colorado to take advantage of the safety and rail investments that Congress and President Biden made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Sadly, those improvements come too late to prevent this incident but it’s clear that federal funds for rail support are critical for Colorado,
TRAIN DERAILMENT CLOSER LOOK: Several containers have toppled over, several agencies from all over southern Colorado are helping with cleanup. We will find out shortly more details about this accident. @KOAA pic.twitter.com/FCyBx1Ubqg— Carl Winder KOAA 🐢 (@CWinderKOAA) October 16, 2023
If you are heading north from Pueblo to Colorado Springs and beyond, use Highway 50 to go west, then link up with Highway 115 through Penrose and on towards Colorado Springs to get back on I-25.
"Colorado 115 is the safest road to use as a detour point., we are encouraging that. please be aware there's an 11-foot width limit, there is road construction going on so it's one lane each way," said CDOT Communications Manager for Region 2 Amber Shipley.
Large trucks, buses, and RVs should use the Highway 115 and Highway 50 detour for northbound travel.
These detours could add a significant amount of traffic and time needed for travel.
BELOW: Colorado State Patrol briefing on train derailment
The priority is to make the scene safe for first responders to get into the area by shoring up the rail overpass to the interstate, according to Colorado State Patrol. No one in the train crew was injured in the derailment.
Crews are expected to work throughout the night at the incident. Just before sunset, crews with heavy construction equipment had started to work on clearing debris.
During a briefing, a Colorado State Patrol spokesperson did not elaborate on how long it will take for a cleanup effort.
Train derailments in our region are not common. Just last week there was a derailment involving a Union Pacific Railroad train in Colorado Springs as 8 rail cars carrying military equipment bound for Ft. Carson derailed near Las Vegas St.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on social media addressed the incident on Sunday evening: "In touch with Gov. Polis and have been briefed by Federal Railroad & Federal Highway Administrations on a BNSF coal train derailment & bridge collapse affecting I-25 near Pueblo, CO. USDOT staff are en route."
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