A temporary fix to Sunday's Denair train derailment will be completed this afternoon, but a full reopening could be days away.
The derailment occurred at approximately 4:56 p.m. Sunday, when a freight train came off the tracks near the intersection of North Santa Fe Avenue and East Zeering Road. Many cargo containers were thrown off the track and some buildings were destroyed, but none were injured.
Since then, Burlington Northern SantaFe Railway employees have been installing a new siding – essentially new, temporary tracks – to allow trains to bypass the derailment. The siding is expected to open at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent.
“Train traffic will move,” Kent said. “That's our very first priority, to get reopened to our customers.”
Even as the siding opens, strict speed restrictions will be in place through the single-track area.
A few trains were rerouted to Union Pacific Railroad tracks due to the derailment, but most just backed up on the rails, Kent said.
Amtrak trains, which use the BNSF railway, have employed a “bus bridge” to get around the closed track. Passengers disembark at the Merced station, and are then bussed to the Modesto station where a different Amtrak train is waiting – or vice versa.
Some Amtrak trains have been delayed more than two hours by the derailment and bus bridge.
According to Amtrak spokesperson Vernae Graham, the bus bridge will likely continue until Wednesday due to the restricted speeds on the siding and the backed-up freight traffic.
“There's going to be a lot of residual stuff out there,” Graham said.
BNSF has no estimates as to when the derailment will be fully cleared. The main line could reopen as soon as 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Kent said.
A determination of the cause of the incident could be months away, Kent said.
The BNSF railroad does not release estimates as to the cost of damage to the train cars, tracks, cargo, or surrounding buildings.