WSDOT: Crews continue removal of rail cars; I-5 likely to remain closed for Wednesday AM commute

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Rail cars were removed from the derailment site and were transported to a secure area of Joint Base Lewis McChord. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

Planning to head southbound Interstate 5 toward Olympia or Portland Wednesday? The Washington State Department of Transportation says that operations to remove remaining rail cars on and adjacent to the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 will continue through the night Tuesday. However, the section of roadway closed by Monday’s Amtrak train derailment will likely remain closed through Wednesday morning’s commute, WSDOT said.

“Crews made substantial progress today in clearing the site,” WSDOT said in a Tuesday night update. “Most of the derailed train cars have been loaded onto semis to be hauled away and securely stored. Bridge engineers also inspected the rail bridge and deemed it structurally sound, with only minor repairs needed for safely reopening the interstate.”

Remaining work includes relocating the cranes to position them to remove the train’s locomotive, which remains on the southbound I-5 lanes, the announcement said. Crews also need to remove a hazard tree.

“It is highly likely southbound I-5 will remain closed through Wednesday morning’s commute and travelers should plan accordingly,” WSDOT said.

WSDOT maintenance crews have pre-staged supplies, equipment and staff, and plan to begin repairs on guardrail and damaged portions of the highway as soon as they are cleared to do so.

The primary detour is State Route 16 to State Route 3 – which is what commercial vehicles should use. “We are seeing significant congestion on SR 507 and SR 7, and do not recommend travelers take SR 302,” WSDOT said.

A local-traffic-only detour is set up on Center Drive through JBLM to Nisqually and connecting to I-5. Drivers can expect heavy traffic on any alternate route and we are encouraging folks to only travel through the area if needed.

Before heading out the door, drivers should check the latest traffic conditions by using WSDOT’s trip planning tools:

  • Calling 5-1-1
  • Following @wsdot_tacoma and @wspd1pio on Twitter
  • Checking WSDOT flow maps and traveler alerts on wsdot.wa.gov

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