Greenfield Avene open after West Allis train derailment

Posted at 1:14 PM, Jul 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-07 20:09:04-04

All four lanes of Greenfield Avenue are open just 24 hours after a train derailment Thursday shut it down.

Friday evening just before 6 p.m., West Allis Police removed all road closure signs to open up both eastbound and westbound lanes to traffic.

Though it wasn't without its headaches. Greenfield Avenue was completely closed for blocks in both directions as Union Pacific worked on the cleanup.

"We've been working around the clock and made good progress," said Raquel Espinoza with Union Pacific.

Espinoza anticipated the road being opened by 5 p.m. Friday but said it would just be one lane in either direction instead of the full four lanes. Union Pacific has not yet commented on why all four lanes have been opened.

One thing not open for discussion is the cause of the crash. Union Pacific says they are still investigating a myriad of reasons for why this crash occurred.

"It takes a while to determine a cause because you have to look at a lot of different details," Espinoza said. "We look at the track, where the cars are positioned after the accident, we look at the black box the locomotive has. We look at how the train was being operated. Weather can also be a factor and is also considered."

However, just hours before the crash, Union Pacific says the rails had passed an inspection. The bridge had also passed its semi-annual inspection in May.

Espinoza could not comment on whether the two men operating the train had any prior incidents.

"At this point, our focus is on making sure everyone is safe and we're doing everything we can to accommodate the public," Espinoza said. "Everything else is secondary at this point and we want to make sure we clear the area as quickly and safely as possible."

While they made quick work, residents Thursday evening were concerned about the debris the coal had stirred up. Union Pacific says it is no danger to the public but for Browner Quality Collision Center, located directly under the bridge where the crash occurred, the coal debris had a significant impact on business.

"It's been pretty difficult to get in and out of here," said Ryan Konkel, manager at Browner Quality Collision Center. "Normally tons of traffic through this area. It's a pretty good location in that respect. Today, a lot of people getting disrupted."

Konkel's business specializes in collision repair so painting cars is a big part of that business. Because of the coal dust in the air though, it wasn't an option for them Friday.

"We don't want to chance ruining our filters by sucking the coal inside there," Konkel said. "It cycles that air through four different stages of filters and they are big and pretty expensive."

Konkel is taking things in stride thanks to his optimism and an understanding client base.

"It could have been a lot worse," Konkel said. "Traffic is pretty heavy, especially that time of day. It's surprising nothing was affected or damaged from it. In the grand respect, it slowed down our Friday a little bit but I don't think it's going to be a huge issue to get back on track."

By Friday evening, Union Pacific had removed 19 of the 29 derailed cars and will continue working through the night.