Falling debris in Hoosac Tunnel adds to rail line blockage

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NORTH ADAMS — Additional material has been falling in the Hoosac Tunnel during the past couple of days, causing a larger blockage of the rail route to Boston and other points east.

Pan Am Railways officials say they'll soon have crews working "around the clock" to resolve the issue.

Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president for Pan Am, said the issue was the result of "structural wear and tear inside the tunnel."

She said that during the evening of Feb. 11, the tunnel "experienced a failure in a small portion of the brick liner near the West Portal through which a pile of debris fell onto the tracks."

Rail traffic through the tunnel was stopped immediately, Scarano said.

"The soil material continued to fall through the hole in the liner over the next few days, further blocking the tunnel," Scarano added via email. "The material has currently ceased falling and self-stabilized. The portions of the tunnel liner in the vicinity of the failure location are being assessed for their viability and strengthened as necessary to create a safe working environment."

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Once that is completed, Scarano said, "the material will then be removed from the tunnel, the liner repaired, and voids in the soil behind the liner filled with grout. It is still unclear at this time how long this process will take to complete, but crews will be working around the clock to reopen the tunnel until trains can resume operations through it."

Because the tunnel closing has lasted longer than 48 hours, trains will be rerouted to the south through Springfield and the north through Vermont.

Scarano noted that about eight trains run through the tunnel on a daily basis.

The 4.9-mile tunnel, which opened in 1875, was touted at the time as the longest train tunnel, a quicker east-west route to Boston, and as a feat of engineering. Since then, there have been some maintenance issues.

Scarano said the previous time the tunnel had to be closed was in 1972, after a similar incident.

Pan Am Railways is based in Billerica.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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