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Highway Partially Reopens After Union County Train Derailment

The Oregon Department of Transportation has partially reopened Highway 203 in Eastern Oregon. 

A train derailment closed Highway 203 on Wednesday.

A train derailment closed Highway 203 on Wednesday.


That’s after an early-morning train derailment shut down an eight-mile stretch of road between La Grande and Union.

Hazmat teams were worried about a possible hazardous spill from the Union Pacific train.

ODOT says at least one of the cars was carrying sodium hydroxide, also known as lye.

Hazmat teams have since given the all-clear.  But ODOT’s Tom Strandberg says one lane of traffic remains closed to accommodate heavy equipment brought in to move the 27-car train. 

“So there were some cars that were laying on their side and several cars were on the tracks but it looked like some of the wheels might have been disconnected.  So they were out there straightening out the cars and trying to right the ones that were tilted to get them moved out of the way,” said Strandberg.

Strandberg says workers had recently performed some track maintenance in the area. 

He says ODOT’s rail division will take part in the investigation.  He expects the highway should fully reopen by tomorrow morning.