Union Pacific plans to reopen railroad tunnel Monday night.
OAKRIDGE - Union Pacific officials plan to reopen a railroad tunnel near here Monday night that was closed Aug. 14 due to a fire in the tunnel.
"We'll be reopening the tunnel at 6 p.m. Monday," spokesman John Bromley said Saturday night from company headquarters in Omaha, Neb.
Crews had been successful in establishing firebreaks in the past few days that kept the blaze from advancing, Bromley said.
In addition, he said, workers on Saturday knocked down some charred timbers in the 3,100-foot-long tunnel, which is about 33 miles east of Oakridge on the west slope of Willamette Pass.
UP officials estimated earlier that the blaze would keep the rail line closed until Aug. 29.
Seventeen freight trains normally travel the pass between Eugene and Klamath Falls daily, as does Amtrak's northbound and southbound Coast Starlight.
The freight trains are being rerouted through the Columbia Gorge and Bend on Burlington Northern-Santa Fe tracks, or through Salt Lake City, a 700-mile detour.
Meanwhile, bus service for Amtrak passengers traveling between Klamath Falls and Eugene began Friday on the same schedule as the Coast Starlight. The buses travel between the two cities via the community of Chemult.
Amtrak says about 1,460 people ride some portion of the Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles daily.
Sparks from a train are believed to have started the fire, which was spotted about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 14, Bromley said. Heavy smoke has spewed from both the north and south portals of the tunnel, he said.
Portions of the tunnel are lined with timber rather than concrete, Bromley said. And packing material used to fill hollow spots between the concrete lining and original concrete rock wall consists of wood chips and other combustibles, he said.
Heat from the fire buckled some of the track, and ceiling timbers had collapsed onto the tunnel floor, he said.