(El Paso, Texas – October 29, 2013)
Union Pacific Railroad didn’t make any friends in El Paso, TX when one of the railroad’s freight trains derailed seven empty cars directly below Interstate Highway 10 near Cotton Street in El Paso on. October 18. On Tuesday night, UPRR officials met with El Paso city government leaders to attempt to mediate the city’s complaints over communication and safety matters related to the accident.
One of the cars derailed from the Herington, KS-to-El Paso train struck part of the support structure of IH-10, causing the major east-west artery to be shut down for several hours, heavily disrupting traffic and causing repair problems that aren’t scheduled to be completed until November 9 or later.
El Paso’s mayor, city manager and city council members expressed concern about the lack of timely notification of the situation, which caught officials by surprise when they began fielding calls from disgruntled constituents in regard to the incident but could not address a problem of which they were unaware.
“I think we need to be informed because people start calling us, and then we don’t know what’s going on,” complained Council Member Emma Acosta. “I-10 is really our lifeline. When you circumvent it like that, people are concerned.”
Mayor Oscar Leeser said he and the council members were informed of the situation by the news media. “My I-phone binged and told me there had been a derailment,” said the mayor.
UP Public Affairs Director Ivan Jaime said that the effect of the situation was because “Our equipment is so large that even if you go 10, 20 years without an incident, any time you have a wheel leave the rails, the results will be dramatic.”
When questioned in regard to the cause of the derailment, the railroad PA director went on to explain that the exact cause for the derailment was still under investigation. “It’s important to be accurate on the cause so that it doesn’t happen again,” he continued. “Careers can be ruined over things like this, so it’s important to get it right.”
Jaime also assured those in attendance that TxDOT would be reimbursed for repair costs resultant from the wreck, but could not offer an estimate of what those numbers would be. “It’s a fluid situation,” the UP official said.
Since the mid-October crash, I-10 users have had to contend with the loss of two westbound lanes of traffic, while an additional two lanes of Missouri Avenue are closed between Willow and Eucalyptus Streets, as well as another lane between Willow and Walnut Streets remain closed to traffic.