The railroad tunnel under the Siskiyou Summit remains closed to traffic more than a year after a fire caused portions of it to collapse. "We've had one setback after another,"...
ASHLAND, Ore. The railroad tunnel under the Siskiyou Summit remains closed to traffic more than a year after a fire caused portions of it to collapse.
“We’ve had one setback after another,” said Dan Lovelady, general manager for Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad.
Lovelady estimates the cost of reconstruction will reach $10 million and the cost of lost business will end up between $2 million and $3 million before the tunnel is reopened, probably in the spring.
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The railroad connects Weed, Calif., to Eugene, Ore., serving numerous wood-products firms in the region. Trains still can get to California but must take a long route through Klamath Falls, Ore., making it uneconomical for many Southern Oregon firms.
Tom Rhea, plant manager for Timber Products, a plywood manufacturer in Grants Pass, Ore., said his company had spent an extra $500,000 in transportation costs since the fire.
Before the collapse, most of the veneer used by the company was shipped by rail from Northern California, filling about 17 rail cars a week.
Since the collapse, the company has needed about 50 truckloads a week.
“We had been getting veneer by truck for 30 years, then we get a good system going with the railroad, and the tunnel collapses,” Rhea said. “The railroad gives us a competitive edge that we lost.”
A fire of unknown origin caused the collapse on Nov. 17, 2003, near the northern end of the 3,100-foot-long tunnel.