News & Reviews News Wire Rebuilt Montana Rail Link bridge over Yellowstone River opens to traffic

Rebuilt Montana Rail Link bridge over Yellowstone River opens to traffic

By Bill Stephens | July 24, 2023

The bridge, which collapsed on June 24, was put back in service on Saturday

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

This drone image from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows the completed bridge on Sunday, July 23, the day after it reopened to traffic.

Montana Rail Link’s main line was put back into service on Saturday after the rebuilt Reed Point bridge over the Yellowstone River was reopened more than a week ahead of estimates.

The bridge collapsed on June 24, sending 10 cars into the river and derailing an additional seven cars. Asphalt was released into the river from some of the submerged cars, and cleanup efforts are still under way.

“Montana Rail Link has resumed operations with the completion of bridge construction efforts at the site of the June 24th derailment near Reed Point,” MRL spokesman Andy Garland said in a statement to Trains News Wire.“Significant progress was made over the last week of construction, allowing the first train to cross over the newly constructed bridge at approximately 11:30am on Saturday, July 22nd. Construction work was completed ahead of initial estimates, allowing service to officially be restored 28 days post outage. As normal train traffic resumes, crews and contractors will remain on site to remove all equipment and material utilized throughout the process and continuing to restore the area.”

MRL crews have been running BNSF Railway detour trains between Laurel, Mont., and Shelby, Mont., via Great Falls. Up to 20 trains per day have been detoured via the BNSF Northern Transcon.

Bridge construction began once the last of 10 derailed cars was removed from the river and remaining cars were removed from the east side of the bridge on July 3, according to a unified command update.

A temporary causeway built to access the damaged span and freight cars was used in the bridge rebuilding efforts. The railroad had estimated that the bridge would be out of service through the end of July.

— Updated at 4:35 p.m. CDT with statement to News Wire from MRL.

16 thoughts on “Rebuilt Montana Rail Link bridge over Yellowstone River opens to traffic

  1. The former bridge for US-10 used to be just 60 feet away from the rail bridge and was recently (2021) removed, including the piers, from the riverbed. I am not saying its related, but to have a rail pier fail so suddenly when a similar pier that was 100 years old removed just 60 yards away, does make you wonder if it caused a shift in the bedrock below.
    And it does makes me curious. After years and years of river bridges having their piers left behind after their spans are taken off, what made MDOT so motivated to remove the piers as well? It is definitely not the norm.

    1. Sir, Bedrock does not move! If it moved it was not bedrock, but a boulder , part of the backfill.

    2. John, I would say the primary change is regulatory requirements. Demolition permits are requiring the pier removal for hydraulic capacity and safety reasons. Back in the day, the railroad or highway authority would pull the spans for scrap and walk away. That is not as easy to do today.

    3. @Terry Warner: Please allow me to rephrase….when they blasted or hydraulically removed the foundation for one of the road piers, they may have fractured/damaged the bedrock they were sharing and it started shifting.

      With a crack in place just 60 feet away, the repetitive nature of the railroad applying pressure caused the crack to migrate and the pier started slipping until it failed.

  2. Perhaps one of these 3 companies may have undertaken the contracting business on behalf of MRL: Montana Railroad Services Inc / RJ Corman Railroad Service / Hulcher Services.

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  3. Does anyone know what contractor did the reconstruction?

    Here in Vermont, RJ Corman has been hard at work restoring Vermont Rail System trackage following tremendous damage from flooding.

  4. One can be very surprised that the collapsed Reed Point railroad bridge over the Yellowstone River was completed as quickly (almost in 4 weeks) as it was. Bravo again!

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  5. All kudos goes to all the crews involved for this outstanding and swift work!

    Dr. Güntürk Üstün

  6. The I-95 bridge is in NE Philadelphia and needs replaced because a truck burned under it. They got a shoo-fly up and running within a week.

  7. Excellent work to all involved.
    I wonder if this is a temporary fix, with a slight realignment and narrowing to the river flow, it would appear that there will be a lot more flow / pressure against the existing original pier.

    1. On second thought, maybe all the fill in the river is only temporary for construction and will all be dug out restoring the natural flow?

    2. If you reread the article, even though it could have been explained a little better, in the third paragraph, it says that contractors will remain to clean up the area, (all of the material and restore the area) which I take it as removal of the temporary causeway they built for rebuild purposes.

    3. I did twice Steve, obviously having comprehension issues
      Thanks for pointing me straight

  8. Once again the railroads have shown us that when there is a disaster such as this bridge collapse, they roll up their sleeves and get the job done. In that light the Pennsylvania DOT deserves the same credit for their work on the I 95 bridge collapse. Kudos to the MLR and Penn DOT for their efforts

    1. “Environmental reviews” (under federal NEPA law) take much longer! Yes, kudos to the railroads who know how to recover from a disaster very quickly!

      “Time is money….” as the old adage goes ….

You must login to submit a comment