An emergency team of contractors led by Opelika, Ala.-based Scott Bridge Co. is tackling an 85-mile stretch of Hurricane Katrina-damaged railroad track between New Orleans and Pascagoula for CSX Railroad Corp. Five bridges along the stretch are impassable and three others badly damaged, says Misty Bell, CSX spokeswoman. Scott will begin bridge repairs in New Orleans and work eastward, while Jordan Pile Driving Inc., Ozark, Ala., will begin in Pascagoula and work westward, says Ike Scott, president of Scott Bridge Co. /p>

Katrina rotated ballast ties and rails, says contractor working on a bridge repair project.(Photo Courtesy of Scott Bridge Co)

The most badly damaged bridge is the Bay St. Louis railroad bridge, a 2-mile box girder crossing with 60-ft-long reinforced concrete spans.

Most of the Bay St. Louis bridge's superstructure is gone. "The storm surge lifted up some segments and hurled them 70 ft," says Scott. "They're 180-ton spans." The bridge will be rebuilt with prestressed concrete girders and composite cast-in-place deck. Bell says the railroad is still evaluating costs.

Scott Bridge Co. is completing another emergency railroad job for Norfolk Southern Corp. at the Lake Pontchartrain bridge, a concrete trestle. Nearly five miles of track had washed out from the top of the 5.8-mile-long rail bridge into the lake. Ballast ties and rail rotated off the bridge like a slinky, says Bill Scott, vice president with Scott Bridge Co. The firm used eight cranes on barges to lift the track back onto the bridge and replace lost ties. Ike Scott says that mobilizing the week after Katrina hit was a challenge. Cranes and barges were disassembled and loaded onto 150 trucks, taken to the site and put back together in three days. Working non-stop, crews repaired the bridge in about two weeks. Three hundred concrete caps needed minor repairs and some beams shifted out of alignment; two precast panels had to be replaced, plus about 20% of the railroad ties, says Bill Scott.

The railroad would not give a cost estimate of the repair.

The CSX repair is particularly crucial as the railroad serves the Port of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast ports. Louisiana's ports handle 354 million tons of cargo annually, including 22% of all U.S. exports. That includes half of all U.S. grain exports.

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