August 22, 2023

UP still working to restore tracks in Yuma subdivision


Portions of Union Pacific’s Yuma subdivision in California are still offline following Tropical Storm Hilary, but “progress continues to be made” to restore the tracks, UP said in a Tuesday service update.

UP (NYSE: UNP) is referring to an area between Banning and Indio, California, on the Yuma subdivision. Water, mud and debris covered areas of track as a result of the storm, according to recent service advisories, and reopening track there will depend on when UP can repair a bridge.

“Mud continues to flow back onto the tracks. Our Operating and Engineering teams are bringing in additional equipment to assist in clearing the track. There is a segment of double track that traverses a bridge that will need to be rebuilt. We anticipate one of these tracks will reopen early in the morning. Once the first track is open, we will have limited use of this line segment. The second track is dependent upon the bridge repair. Early estimates indicate the track may be out of service for approximately two weeks,” UP said in the service update.

Portions of Union Pacific’s Yuma subdivision got hit by Tropical Storm Hilary. (Photo: Union Pacific)

But UP’s Mojave subdivision, which had also been offline because of the storm, is now back in service. The areas that had been affected were near Mojave and north of Fontana, according to UP.

“Although we have returned service to some of the impacted segments, it will take multiple days to work through the backlog of trains,” UP said. “For safety purposes, these line segments will have temporary slow order speed restrictions placed upon them. We will also need to re-align locomotive power and crews to the region and customers should expect extended delays through the week.”

On Monday, BNSF (NYSE: BRK-B) said in a service advisory that it was working with UP on restoring the Mojave subdivision. BNSF uses UP’s tracks between Bakersfield, California, and Mojave. Because of that temporary outage, BNSF warned customers moving shipments to and from Northern California to expect delays.

BNSF also said Monday that its intermodal facilities in greater Los Angeles are fully operational and that there were no Hilary-related impacts at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Rail network visibility platform RailState, which recently expanded its coverage to include Southern California, noted that “normal rail flows stopped” after Sunday evening. The last loaded train to pass through the Loma Linda area was an eastbound mixed-manifest train with 109 cars, and it passed by at 8:39 p.m. PT, according to RailState.

Ten days before the storm hit, the route saw an average of 31 trains, carrying a total of 3,600 carloads and 4,300 containers, RailState said. 

“The weather this year is something most of us would like to forget, but these are the trends that we all have to react to, including the railroads,” John Schmitter, RailState co-founder and chief commercial officer, said in a Monday release. “Some of these recent examples show how resilient rail can be. Tracks can be repaired quickly and service can be back to normal in days, while fixes to roadways may cause congestion for months or longer.”

Meanwhile, the Surface Transportation Board said late Monday afternoon that it is actively monitoring rail service disruptions caused by Hilary. The agency also asked rail carriers, shippers and other stakeholders to contact STB if they are experiencing rail service disruptions that could create an emergency situation.

“Freight and passenger rail service interruptions extending north and east from Southern and Central California have been reported,” STB said, adding that it will use its emergency service authority under federal law if needed.

Southern California braced for the storm over the weekend, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom declaring a state of emergency on Saturday. At that time, Newsom’s office said Hilary was a category 2 storm that could bring catastrophic flooding to Baja California and the southwestern U.S.

Post-Tropical Cyclone Hilary is now well into Nevada and heading north toward Oregon and Idaho, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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