The City of Delta, CO, has been working for several years to reroute the North Fork branch. The circuitous route runs coal loads and empties directly through town, over a number of grade crossings on the edge of a residential neighborhood. While this routing may have made sense a hundred years ago when the line east was just a branch off the mainline between Montrose to Grand Junction, it makes little sense today when almost all of the traffic comes off the former branch, and the former mainline is reduced to 1 train each way each week.
This effort finally started to become reality in February 2006, when the city started acquiring property for the new line. The route, costing some $5.65 million, would diverge from the branch about a block west of the US 50 grade crossing and cut directly west along the southern edge of Confluence Park, crossing the Uncompaghre River and rejoining the line north to Grand Junction. The total length of the bypass is under a mile, but it would eliminate five unsignaled grade crossings and significantly reduce traffic on a sixth (G Road). It would create two new crossings - Kellogg St. and Graff Road - but it appears both of these will be signaled and should carry a lower volume of traffic. In addition, it will remove a sharp curve - the north leg of the wye - from the path of loaded coal trains, giving them a straight shot west through town.
The rail realignment project was put out to bid in May of 2006, and Flatiron Construction was selected, with a bid of $2.8 million for the earthwork and the new bridge. A ceremonial ground-breaking was held on 12-Jul-2006, and real work began shortly afterwards. The key element of the project - the new Uncompahgre River bridge - was completed on 13-Dec-2006.
With the earthwork and bridge completed, Union Pacific will begin construction on the new track sometime in April 2007, with an expected completion date in June. At that point, the trackage from the eastern connection (near Palmer Street) to the wye will be removed. The line south from the connection on the west end will remain, as it connects to the Montrose Branch. The abandoned right-of-way is being considered as a US 50 Truck Route corridor, although this project is still in the planning phase.
Thanks to the Delta County Independent for reporting on this project. Until recently (Feb 2007), I had no idea this was even in progress. With their online archive of articles, it was easy to piece together the basic timeline above.
Date: 03 Mar 2007
Size: 5 items
(38 items total)