Traffic on I-25 near Pueblo is moving southbound again after a train derailment and deadly bridge collapse

Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Crews work to repair Interstate 25 in both directions at the site of a coal train derailment and deadly northbound bridge collapse near Pueblo.

Updated at 5:12 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.

Update: Both directions of I-25 are now open.

Original story below

Cleanup and road repairs are nearly complete after a coal train derailment and deadly bridge collapse closed Interstate 25 in both directions north of Pueblo on Sunday.

The northbound lanes should reopen sometime Thursday, according to Colorado Department of Transportation officials, although possibly with reduced speeds. Intermittent closures are anticipated when bridge replacement begins.

Gov. Jared Polis visited the site on Wednesday and expressed condolences to the family of the semi-truck driver killed when the bridge collapsed, 60-year-old Lafollette Henderson of California.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Polis said. “But I want to thank our partners, both the railroad and the federal government for working with us to minimize the disruption to Colorado, motorists, (and) to interstate commerce.”

In further remarks, he said getting the bridge back into service again may take a few weeks, but freight trains will keep running to the Comanche Power plant south of Pueblo.

“This will not affect supply or power in Colorado,” he said. “Coal is being delivered to Comanche by alternate routes and that's the only Colorado destination supplied from this route.”

Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Governor Jared Polis speaks at the site of the coal train derailment north of Pueblo, with Pueblo County Commissioner Daneya Esgar at left and Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar at right.

The train that derailed was on its way to New Mexico and not the power plant in Pueblo. Polis said the railroad company, BNSF Railway, is looking to move a segment of the bridge from another state to try to restore this rail link connection. 

Polis said local, state and federal officials, along with BNSF personnel and road crews worked together to prioritize reopening the highway quickly and safely since it is the main north-to-south route in this part of the country.

“This is one of the most important arteries not only for commuter traffic between Pueblo and Colorado Springs,” he said, “but also, for interstate commerce, for trucking, this is a very important route.”

Federal officials gathered drone footage to help expedite their investigation so that clean-up and repair crews could start work. 

CDOT officials said the bridge has been in place since the 1950s and the agency and BNSF are checking their records to determine ownership of and responsibility for maintaining the structure.

“We have no reason to believe that the bridge played any role in this accident,” Polis said. 

He then referenced the initial findings from the federal investigation which said the derailment was likely due to a broken rail and happened prior to the bridge collapse