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Railroad track reopens at Wickiup Jct. accident site


A construction accident at the Wickiup Junction railroad overpass project north of La Pine on Monday caused no injuries but sent two large, heavy concrete beams falling, one blocking the train tracks below for five hours, officials said.

ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said two 173-foot concrete and steel beams were being put into place by two cranes above the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks. One had been placed and a second was being lowered into place when “something happened.”

Murphy said while two beams fell, only one landed atop the tracks, while “the other stabilized without touching the tracks.”

Murphy said no one was injured in the accident, which occurred around 1 p.m. He also said he was on scene when the accident occurred.

“It was stunning to watch it take place,” Murphy said. “You can hear something going on and see a little smoke or dust. And, then all this weight came crashing down — and it was sort of shocking, really.”

Fortunately, he said, the tracks were closed as a safety precaution for Monday’s operation.

Murphy said they worked to clean up the debris and reopen the tracks as soon as possible.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas in Seattle said the track was reopen again by 6 p.m., with three trains delayed as a result..

He said he was told one beam was being placed above the tracks “and somehow it fell and fell onto another” beam already in place.

Both 130-ton beams fell onto the single, main-line BNSF tracks below, Melonas said.

BNSF held up trains until the track was cleared, Melonas said, adding that eight or nine freight trains typically travel through the area each day.

Just two weeks ago, ODOT said work on the $16 million project was ahead of schedule and on track for completion next year. The prime contractor, High Desert Aggregate & Paving, had left the project for the time being, while bridge work progressed with a sub-contractor.

The new overpass structure was expected to be completed by November of this year, and paving next spring.

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