Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NORCO, La. – It’s a rail bridge spanning the Bonnet Carre Spillway, usually seeing two passenger trains and at least a half dozen freight trains every day. But not today.
“On Sunday afternoon as we made our way from New Orleans to Hammond, our engineer reported to the dispatcher a problem with the track,” said Marc Magliari, An Amtrak spokesman.
The Amtrak engineer reported a “rough ride,” according to Canadian National Railway, the company that owns and maintains the railway line and bridge.
“We believe debris moving through the spillway struck the bridge piers, damaging about 26 feet of the bridge, so right now the work that would be under way would be to replace those piers and then repair the top of the bridge,” said Patrick Waldron of the Canadian National Railway.
Ken Holder, an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman, said the investigation into what caused the damage is just beginning. He said it could have been any number of things, from debris, to water pressure, to scouring.
“It’s premature to tell," Holder said. "I think we need to let the water go down a little bit. I know there’s several theories running around. What I would do is let the water down and really look at everything so we know what really caused it."
Canadian National submitted a repair plan, which the corps then approved.
“We were satisfied yesterday when we looked at their engineering plans that it was indeed safe for them to do the work that they wanted to do,” said Holder.
In the meantime, the track remains out of service, forcing Amtrak to ferry passengers by bus from New Orleans to Hammond.
“We expect that this situation will continue at least through tomorrow, Wednesday,” said Magliari. “We’re hoping to operate normally on Thursday.”
Once that work crews are finished with the repairs, Canadian Nationals say they plan to step up the number of daily inspections that they do on that rail bridge, especially ahead of any trains that might be about to go over it.