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UPDATE: Replacing damaged Missouri bridge after derailment estimated at $3M

Sunday, May 26, 2013 | 8:00 p.m. CDT

CHAFFEE — Cleanup of the collapsed southeast Missouri highway overpass continued Sunday, more than 24 hours after a cargo train crash led to a chain reaction.

The crash, which happened about 2:30 a.m. Saturday near Chaffee, led to the derailment of about two dozen rail cars that smashed into the bridge's support pillars. Seven people in two cars on the Highway M overpass in Scott County were injured, none seriously, when two 40-foot sections of the overpass crumpled. All seven had been released from an area hospital Saturday.

"The damage is very extensive," said Mark Shelton, engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation's southeast region, on Sunday. "We're going to end up removing the entire bridge and completely replacing it."

Shelton said the overpass replacement is estimated to cost about $3 million, and the bridge is expected to reopen in early September.

The overpass, which was built about 15 years ago, is used by about 400 to 500 cars a day, mostly between Chaffee, Scott City and Cape Girardeau. The National Transportation Safety Board said the bridge was rated "good" after its last inspection in February.

The railroads would likely pay for the replacement, but the investigation into the cause of the accident was still early, Shelton said.

"We'll have to go through the investigation and all that stuff and figure out liability. But our bridge was just standing there. ... So certainly we'll be looking to the railroad for recovery," he said.

The collapse occurred after a Union Pacific train hit the side of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train at a rail intersection.

Shelton said crews were at the scene Sunday cleaning up debris and removing sections of the bridge. The derailed rail cars were loaded primarily with scrap metal, automobiles and auto parts.

The National Transportation Safety Board has begun an investigation into the cause of the collision. Board member Robert Sumwalt said Saturday that the full investigation could take a year.

The accident came more than a week after a commuter train derailment in Connecticut that injured 70 people and disrupted service for days. That accident involved a railroad corridor used by tens of thousands of commuters north of New York City.

In Washington state this past week, a bridge collapsed when a truck driver's load bumped against the steel framework.

Sumwalt said while the investigations into both collapses are in the early stages "there is no similarity" between the Missouri accident and the bridge collapse in Washington, which sent two vehicles and three people falling into the chilly water.

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