- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

A CSX Transportation freight train derailed yesterday morning in Alexandria, backing up traffic and forcing rail passengers to drive for their daily commute between Northern Virginia and Washington.

The derailment blocked freight and passenger traffic along five rail lines that run side by side.

“The people that are normally on the trains were on the roads,” said Jim Russ, operations director for MetroTraffic, a reporting service for the Washington area.

Backups were reported on interstates 395, 95 and 66 during the morning commute.

“At the worst point, the 95 and 395 delays were from Dale City most of the way to Shirlington,” Mr. Russ said. “That’s about 20 miles.”

I-66 was backed up about seven miles.

Some motorists reported commutes twice as long as usual.

The evening commute also was beset by slow traffic, but it was undetermined whether the derailment contributed.

“It wasn’t any worse than any other day,” said Ryan Hall, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman.

Amtrak service south of Washington and Virginia Railway Express are operating on reduced schedules and shortened routes today because of blocked tracks. They suspended service for several hours yesterday morning.

VRE carries 14,000 to 15,000 commuters on normal workdays. Another 3,000 Amtrak passengers were affected.

Metrorail’s Blue Line is operating normally after being shut down for about 80 minutes yesterday morning.

With lingering concerns about more Northern Virginia commuters driving, as well as weather predictions of icy conditions, “Leave a little extra time tomorrow to get where you’re going,” Mr. Hall said yesterday afternoon.

The 6 a.m. derailment of the 19 rail cars prompted a response from an Alexandria Fire Department hazardous-materials team.

The derailment included six empty tanker cars that previously carried sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, both toxic chemicals.

The haz-mat team found only a “residue” of chemicals but no leaks or safety hazards, an Alexandria Fire Department spokeswoman said.

The cause of the accident still is being investigated.

The derailment occurred near Business Center Drive and Roth Street.

“There was no environmental danger,” said Dan Murphy, CSX spokesman. “There was no evacuation.”

None of the tanker cars was punctured. However, several box cars were torn open, leaving a jumble of rail cars piled on top “It’s routine except for where it happened,” Mr. Murphy said. “The NS [Norfolk Southern Railway] line comes in there. The VRE line to Fredericksburg comes in there and the triple main line of CSX is there. There are five separate lines that come together there.”

A railroad-repair crew was removing derailed rail cars and replacing damaged track. By 3 p.m. yesterday, they removed nine of the 19 cars.

“CSX expects to resume service sometime Friday,” Mr. Murphy said.

No roads were blocked by the derailed 96-car train. It was headed from Richmond to Philadelphia.

Metrorail Blue Line service between the King Street and Franconia/Springfield stations, which was interrupted, was restored by 7:20 a.m.

Rather than running into Union Station, VRE’s Fredericksburg line is stopping today at the Franconia/Springfield Metro station. VRE’s Manassas line is stopping near the Van Dorn Street Metro station.

Service on Amtrak’s Autotrain continues to operate between Florida and Lorton. Regional service within Virginia is suspended today.

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