KA - Train derailment damages pillars supporting 18th Street Expressway

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Train derailment damages pillars supporting 18th Street Expressway; southbound lanes are closed By JUDY L. THOMAS - The Kansas City Star Date: 10/08/00 22:20

Several Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway train cars derailed Sunday morning in Kansas City, Kan., ramming two concrete pillars that support the 18th Street Expressway overpass near Metropolitan Avenue.

Because of the damaged pillars, the southbound lanes of the expressway have been closed. Drivers who normally use the southbound section of the expressway between Kansas and Metropolitan Avenues will have to find an alternative route until the pillars can be repaired.

"It's unsafe," said Oscar Hamilton, area maintenance superintendent for the Kansas Department of Transportation. "One pillar is lying completely on the ground, and the other one is knocked over to where the bridge is off the bearing device and just sitting on top of the concrete column. Just barely."

Hamilton said structural engineers were on their way to assess the damage.

"But it could take days, maybe even a month, to make the repairs," he said.

Hamilton said the northbound lanes of the expressway were safe because the bridges are not connected. Southbound traffic has been rerouted onto Kansas Avenue.

The derailment occurred at 8:20 a.m. Sunday as the train was heading to the Argentine rail yard from Tulsa, Okla. Railroad spokesman Steve Forsberg said that four cars toward the front of the train left the track, with one or more of them striking the pillars of the overpass. The impact destabilized the southbound lanes of the expressway and mangled two of the four cars, tipping them on their sides.

Forsberg said the cars that derailed were hauling cement. A fifth car farther back buckled and derailed as well, just east of the 12th Street overpass. That car was carrying liquid nitrogen. A hazardous materials crew was called to clean up some of the spilled fertilizer and transfer the rest of it to another container.

Forsberg said the train was hauling a variety of materials and had between 90 and 130 cars. It had two crew members, he said, neither of whom were injured.

Forsberg said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

"Typically, even for a routine derailment, it often takes us several weeks to reach a conclusion," he said. "We'll have to examine track up and down the line."

He said the derailment was unusual in that the fifth car that derailed was at least 30 to 40 cars behind the others.

"That means there's a lot of track and a lot of cars that are going to have to be looked at to see if any others were showing signs of possibly coming off," he said.

Forsberg said he didn't know how long it would take to clean up the derailment site.

"It could be days," he said, "but it usually doesn't take quite that long."

Though the Argentine yard is the nation's second-busiest rail center, Forsberg said, the derailment shouldn't cause a major disruption.

"We should be able to route a lot of the traffic around it," he said.


-- Doris (reaper@pacifier.com), October 09, 2000

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