If you've ever had the feeling you were on a streak of bad luck, you and the bridge over Colorado Highway 72 at Coal Creek Canyon might have something in common. Last December, a significant derailment dropped hopper cars like toys all over the bridge and both approaches, closing the highway. Monday, May 17th, was a bit different, but it had a similar impact, with delayed motorists, re-routed freight and a Cal-Z sent through Wyoming.
This time it wasn't a derailment, nor a even train related. Instead, a semi towing a flatbed with a backhoe on it struck the bridge while passing underneath it. The driver stopped, but drove away before county deputies or state troopers could arrive. The Colorado State Patrol is treating the accident as a hit-and-run.
The Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT, shut down the highway and Union Pacific shut down traffic while they investigated the damage. No traffic was allowed through the damaged underpass while crews repaired the bridge. Amtrak's California Zephyr was rerouted through Wyoming over UP rails Tuesday through Thursday, while UPs freights that weren't re-routed have been limited to 10 MPH over the bridge. The bridge is just below Tunnel 1 on the former Rio Grande's Moffat Tunnel route. See "View Location" note in the footer of this post.
Monday, a week after the accident, repairs are completed and the bridge is again open for business. Traffic resumed it's normal pattern as of 3:00 PM. The only sign that something was wrong is that someone's backhoe probably has more than a few scrapes and a bridge-shaped dent in the excavator's arm.
Speaking of streaks, this is just the latest in a string of service issues for Amtrak's California Zephyr.