Alaska railroad on the way to recovery following severe earthquake damage

Workers making repairs to a section of the Alaska Railroad south of Eklutna that was damaged by the earthquake on Nov. 30. (Photo courtesy Alaska Railroad)

Parts of the Alaska Railroad were severely damaged by Friday’s earthquake, interrupting both freight and passenger service.

But according to an Alaska Railroad spokesperson, thanks to the speed of repairs, trains are likely to start running again by early this week.

Alaska Railroad external affairs director Tim Sullivan said there were six areas north of Anchorage that needed to be fixed.

There were different degrees of damage, he said — in some spots the ground crumbled away from the edge of the track.

There were also “some amazing situations where the track, the ties and the ground were all frozen together, but the ground underneath it dropped out so it was just hanging there,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the railroad’s operation center in Anchorage was also damaged.

“It got shook up pretty well,” Sullivan said. “We also had some water pipes that burst, had flooding on the second and first floors. It was in some pretty bad shape.”

Sullivan said repairs to the railroad won’t be complete for a while, but essential fixes are happening quickly, an effort he described as “miraculous.”

The first train could head north by Monday afternoon. Passenger service is likely to resume by this weekend, although trips could take an hour or so longer, Sullivan said. Railroad dispatch is expected to be fully back in its normal location by the end of the week.

Sullivan didn’t yet have an estimate for how much repairs to the railroad will cost. But he said he’s hopeful federal and state emergency funds will be available to help pay for the damage.

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