Gorge railway, highway reopen after landslides

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ROOSEVELT — Construction crews re-opened damaged sections of road and railroad on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge on Monday evening after a strong thunderstorm and resulting slides had closed them for much of the weekend.

Mud, rocks and other debris flowed into both transit arteries near Roosevelt in Klickitat County, about 150 miles east of Vancouver, on Saturday evening, according to BNSF Railway and Washington State Department of Transportation officials. The slide damaged some 600 feet of state Highway 14, according to WSDOT, forcing its closure. The "freak storm" also washed out two 100-foot sections of the railroad in the area, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

The closure affected BNSF's main rail line between Vancouver and the Tri-Cities. During the closures, vehicle and rail traffic was detoured through nearby corridors.

Crews opened the railroad to freight traffic by 12:30 a.m. Monday, Melonas said; Amtrak passenger trains followed about two hours later. WSDOT re-opened Highway 14 at 7:25 p.m. Monday.

Slides are a common problem for both agencies, but damage typically happens on Washington's wet west side, and during the winter or spring. To have a slide wash out the railroad so far east in July, Melonas said, "is nearly unheard of."