Big Sky Roundup

Yellowstone River at site of train derailment to reopen Saturday

By: - July 28, 2023 11:25 am
The reconstructed bridge near Reed Point on July 24, 2023, which was the site of a Montana Rail Link train derailment and bridge collapse on June 27.

The reconstructed bridge near Reed Point on July 24, 2023, which was the site of a Montana Rail Link train derailment and bridge collapse on June 27. (Photo courtesy Unified Command)

The section of the Yellowstone River near Reed Point that has been closed since a train derailed and bridge collapsed into the river on June 27 will reopen this weekend as crews continue to clean up thousands of pounds of asphalt that spilled into the river.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said Thursday the river would reopen on Saturday below Twin Bridges Road, which remains closed to the public despite construction on the new bridge being finished last Saturday.

Meanwhile, crews continue to try to collect the largest pieces of asphalt out of the river and are hopeful receding water levels will expose more of the material that spilled out of the train cars after the derailment.

As of Tuesday, crews had collected 164,634 pounds of asphalt and continued to work, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson Beth Archer.

The Unified Command team composed of the EPA, Montana Rail Link, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services, is sending teams out this week to estimate how much of the asphalt remains in the river to help determine how long the rest of the cleanup will take.

Crews finished rebuilding the bridge that collapsed last Saturday, and the first train went across it late that morning, Archer said. She said the 28-day service restoration was ahead of the initial schedule.

Archer said Wednesday that nine snakes and seven birds died because of the asphalt that spilled into the river and onto its banks. Another snake that encountered the asphalt was treated and released back into the wild, she said.

FWP said the closure surrounding the bridge on the Yellowstone is the final closure of the river to be lifted in relation to the June derailment and spill. The department said anyone floating the river after it opens should float under the new bridge on river left.

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Blair Miller
Blair Miller

Blair Miller is a reporter based in Helena who primarily covers government, climate and courts. He's been a journalist for more than 12 years, previously based in Denver, Albuquerque and mid-Missouri.

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