Train Carrying Fuel Derails, Snarling Traffic But Avoiding Disaster

Stuck tanks blocked travel on part of Route 15 in Essex Junction, Vermont for much of Friday.

A heavily-traveled stretch of Route 15 in Essex Junction, Vermont is back open to drivers, after traffic was blocked for about 14 hours due to a train car that skipped off the track Thursday night. It did not topple, but it became stuck in the middle of a railroad crossing, along with two other tanks.

The impacted stretch of road leads into the 5 Corners intersection in Essex Junction, which is usually one of the busiest in Chittenden County. It took workers most of Friday morning to hoist one of the tanks, remove its wheels, and place it back on a new set.

The train car was labeled as carrying a common type of fuel known as liquefied petroleum gas, similar to propane and butane. Essex police and fire officials told New England Cable News there was no leak or rupture to the stuck fuel tanks. The gas is flammable or explosive, according to markings on the train cars.

“This is something we’ve trained for,” said Lt. Robert Kissinger of the Essex Police Dept. “There was no danger to the public, as determined last night, so we lucked out.”

“That would’ve taken this place off the face of the map,” said Jackson Seifert, a Champlain College student waiting at the Amtrak station near the site of the derailment, describing what he imagined would have happened had the fuel exploded. “So I’m glad that didn’t happen.”

Seifert said he was trying to take an Amtrak passenger train to Northampton, Massachusetts. With the tracks blocked, Amtrak put him on a bus instead. “I was definitely frustrated, but given the circumstances, there’s only so much you can do,” he told NECN.

Laurie Browne, who owns a costume shop in view of the derailment, said the situation forced her to detour and be late in opening her store. She said she scrambled to rearrange fittings for customers.

“I let them know what to expect and how to get here the back way,” Browne noted.

It appears a faulty wheel bearing may be to blame, but a final determination of a cause is pending a formal investigation, according to public safety officials on site.

After hours of detours, locomotives got the tank cars back on their way again around noon Friday, clearing the way for Route 15 to reopen. Workers patched damage to the pavement, telling NECN the pavement damage was minor and that the rails will be back open for business as usual this weekend.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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