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Railroad committed to keeping tracks open

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    PACIFIC JUNCTION - A large crew of workers from Burlington Northern Sante Fe and an army of private contractors have descended on Pacific Junction in an attempt to ensure the railroad’s east and west mainline near the town stays open during expected flooding from the Missouri River.

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    Crews have been working around the clock to raise portions of railroad tracks that could be affected by floodwaters and build a berm to protect a western portion of the tracks, said Amy McBeth, Iowa spokesperson for BNSF.
    The Pacific Junction stretch of tracks, part of BNSF’s Creston subdivision, serves 48 trains per day and is a major artery to the east and west.
    “What we’re doing is concentrating our efforts in this area to keep it open,” McBeth said. “To do this, our crews have had to raise the height of the tracks and build temporary levees in the area. We’ve been doing it for several days and we’ll continue it for at least several more days.”
    When raising track, McBeth said machines  lift up the track and then ballasts and other material are installed underneath to strengthen the area. Nearly four miles of track will be raised up to five feet as part of the work.
    “It varies in areas but it’s quite an intensive effort,” McBeth said of the track raising. “It’s an undertaking but we want to keep operating on that route.”
    Truckloads of dirt and gravel are continuing to be brought into the area for the berm to protect tracks from possible flooding if the levee is over-topped or breaches to the west.
    BNSF is looking at several miles of track in and around Pacific Junction and continuing to identify other stretches that might require elevation.
    During the work, trains have been diverted at certain times of the day while “work windows” are allowing some trains to pass, depending on the type of work being done at the time.
    McBeth said the railroad is working with the city of Pacific Junction and the county on joint efforts to prevent flood impact in the area.
    “Whenever we can, we coordinate with the local entities,” McBeth said. “There are a lot of folks doing flood preparation and we cooperate where we can.”
    McBeth was uncertain how long the work would continue.