NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. – Authorities lifted emergency restrictions for residents near a railway bridge where several derailed tanker cars burned for two days, and rail traffic temporarily resumed Monday, officials said.
The last fire from Friday night's accident was extinguished late Sunday night, and freight trains began using one of two tracks spanning the Beaver River in New Brighton shortly before 1 a.m. Monday.
The train pulling 86 tanker cars carrying ethanol, also known as grain alcohol, was traveling from Chicago to New Jersey when 23 of the cars tumbled off the tracks, causing at least nine to catch fire. No one was injured.
About 50 nearby residents were evacuated for fear of possible explosions. Most were allowed to return home Sunday and the rest were cleared to return Monday, said Wes Hill, Beaver County's director of emergency services.
"The emergency response part of this scenario has been lifted," he said. "We will continue just to monitor on a standby basis."
Vehicles will continue to be prohibited from the area surrounding the accident scene as workers try to determine how to remove two tanker cars from the river, Hill said.
Rudy Husband, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, which owns the rail line, said about 14 trains used the track before it was temporarily closed for repairs Monday morning.
Husband declined to comment on the financial impact of the derailment, saying it would take several weeks to determine that figure.
The derailment also affected Amtrak's Capitol Limited, which makes one round trip daily between Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Amtrak trains were expected to travel through the area as scheduled Monday, but those that departed Sunday and were detoured face delays of three to four hours, said Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell.
Norfolk Southern representatives have offered to compensate residents for hotels and for meals away from home. Company representatives also planned to meet with business owners who may have lost income and "come up with a mutually agreeable solution," Husband said.
Federal investigators removed data recorders from the train on Saturday. Agents from the National Transportation Safety Board also removed a section of track that was broken in two when the 23 cars from the train's midsection derailed.
Robert Sumwalt, vice chairman of the NTSB, said late Sunday the train's crew told investigators the train was running well until it automatically applied emergency brakes because pneumatic brake lines between cars had been severed. It was unclear what role the brake laccident, but said company officials inspect mainline tracks like the ones on the bridge at least twice a week.
The derailment happened about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh on tracks used by 50 to 70 trains each day.