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Railroad responds to recent Grays Harbor derailments

May 16, 2014

Puget Sound & Pacific Railway crews are on scene following yesterday afternoon’s train derailment outside of Montesano.

11 cars derailed over near a railroad crossing on the Old Highway on Central Park Drive. At least 7 tipped over. These grain cars were heading into Aberdeen, and to the Port of Grays Harbor.

According to Michael Williams, Director of Corporate Communications for Genesee & Wyoming, he tells KXRO that “This series of minor derailments is a highly unusual, unacceptable occurrence and subject to a rigorous investigation. The first two derailments were caused by localized failure of railroad ties that were saturated with moisture from recent heavy rains. Other locations experiencing this issue have been identified and are being corrected prior to receiving another train. The cause of yesterday’s derailment is still being determined.“

“Safety is always our first priority, and PSAP will not run another train while we examine the recent track inspection results,” says PSAP president Joel Haka. “Any issues will be addressed prior to resuming service on the affected portion of the line.”

PSAP was acquired 16 months ago by Genesee & Wyoming. Since then, it has been continuously upgraded with $4.3 million in track investments, including the installation of 17,500 railroad ties and 25 miles of track resurfacing, and these improvements are ongoing. Track is inspected at least weekly, per federal requirements.

“This string of low-speed derailments is not acceptable, and we fully recognize the need to resume the safe, efficient freight service on which our customers depend,” Haka says.

Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, Inc. experienced three low-speed grain car derailments in the past 17 days, none of which involved any injuries or damage to non-railroad property.

On April 29, five cars derailed at 5 mph at South Washington Street in Aberdeen. The track was back in service on April 30.

On May 9, seven cars derailed at 6 mph at Heron Street in Aberdeen. The track was back in service on May 14.

Yesterday, 11 cars derailed at 10 mph at Devonshire Road in Montesano. It is estimated that the track will be back in service on or before May 17.

Residents have pointed to the recent derailments as a major concern towards bringing crude by rail shipments into Grays Harbor, while others have questioned the timing and frequency asking if there may be more issues than just poor rail condition and the increased response is somehow related to the crude by rail debate.

Officials have stated that if the crude by rail projects move into construction phases, the local rail system would be upgraded further under Federal regulations to handle the specifically designed cars and extra traffic.

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Categories: Harbor News
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