Harvey halted rail traffic when it hit near Corpus Christi on Aug. 25 and barreled up the coast. The storm dumped a U.S. record 52 inches of rain in some areas, causing an estimated $75 billion in damages.
Railroads sustained flooded yards and washed-out track and bridges, forcing stoppages and delays. Traffic on Union Pacific, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, Amtrak and Houston METRORail was idle the first four or five days after the storm.
But by last Thursday, all but 50 miles of Union Pacific track in Houston had been restored, according to an update on the company’s website. Elsewhere, all BNSF subdivisions affected by the storm had opened, and KCS had most service restored.
In all, 1,750 miles of UP’s track that affect 2,440 route miles were closed because of high water and damage. Harvey knocked out service on the railroad’s Houston-area network north to Hearne, east of Beaumont, south to Brownsville and west to San Antonio.
Two days after the storm, UP began assessing damage and discovered 96 outages in its network along the Gulf Coast. Two days later, 150 outages were reported. Dispatching in Spring was moved to Omaha.
By Sept. 1, UP had half the downed routes back in service.
“Over the last two weeks we’ve worked tirelessly to restore service in the affected areas, where the damage has been significant,” Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Beth Whited said in an update to customers on the company’s website.Three of six bridges knocked out have been restored. The remaining bridges under repair have closed 50 miles of track affecting 420 route miles north of Houston, east of Beaumont and south of Angleton. A crane was brought in to repair the bridge over the San Jacinto River on the “Rabbit” line between Humble and Cleveland, TX. The company hasn’t said when the track will be open.
UP crews have been relocated to affected areas and 145 locomotives added to handle a surge in traffic as operations resume. An additional 200 locomotives are expected to be added. Also, all of the 25,508 cars affected by Harvey have been inspected, the company says.
Whited said that in light of pipeline and refinery disruptions, the company is enacting plans to ensure locomotives have fuel.
While much of the network is rolling again, many customer facilities remain closed as UP works through the backlog of trains and car inventories. Whited said full recovery will take time.
“As we inspect areas of track, we learn of additional repairs required,” she said. “Reroutes create crew shortages and disrupt car flows.”
BNSF has restored service on all of its subdivisions impacted by Harvey after multiple washouts and flooding ceased operations. By Sept. 7 trains were moving across the Longview Subdivision and between Beaumont and Silsbee on the Silsbee Subdivision. The primary rail line connecting Beaumont and locations in Louisiana has also reopened.
The company said track and signal work continues in some locations and trains may experience delays during scheduled maintenance windows. Some traffic is being rerouted around areas where service is being restored southwest of Houston.
The storm shut down BNSF traffic in Houston and along the Gulf Coast. By Aug. 31 the company said it had made significant progress restoring rail service. The Houston Subdivision was among the first restored, followed by the Galveston Subdivision from Temple to just south of Alvin.
Kansas City Southern in slowly restoring lines in the area.
Harvey shut down lanes between Kendleton (Houston) and Laredo, resulting in a force majeure being declared for its U.S. and Mexico operations and an embargo for affected areas along the coast.
The Beaumont subdivision was expected to open Sept. 9, and all south and northbound cross-border embargoes for locations of Houston, Corpus Christi, Victoria and Rosenberg to and from Laredo have been lifted. Embargoes remained for traffic between Beaumont and DeQuincy, LA.
On Sept. 3, KCS began resuming cross-border traffic with the reopening of its Rosenberg Subdivision under slow orders. Train speeds were restricted to 10 mph because of saturated conditions and continued repairs, the company said in a service alert.Amtrak plans to resume service between Los Angeles and New Orleans via Houston by the Sunset Limited on Wednesday with the departure of the eastbound Train 2 from Los Angeles. Westbound Train 1 will depart Saturday from New Orleans.
Amtrak’s route between San Antonio and New Orleans was affected by the storm.
Also, all light-rail service in Houston was restored by Sept. 5. Limited service started on the Red Line on Aug. 31.