TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- The rail bridge over Tempe Town Lake that partially collapsed and burned Wednesday is an important gateway for freight into the Phoenix metropolitan area.
"I would venture to say that 95% of commodities that are inbound for Phoenix via rail come across that bridge," said Bill Chrisman, a retired Union Pacific worker whose railroading career spanned 42 years.
Chrisman says the bridge services the only operating rail line owned by Union Pacific into Phoenix. He says that with the bridge out, Phoenix is now on an "island" for Union Pacific rail traffic, and they'll have to find another way around.
ADOT railway maps show that there's a Union Pacific line that runs into Phoenix from the west, but a large section of it is out of service. Chrisman says that portion has been shut down ever since the 90s, after the Amtrak Sunset Limited derailed. He says that section of track would need significant upgrades before becoming a detour.
According to Chrisman, the most likely alternate route into Phoenix would be from the north, using a line owned by BNSF that goes through Flagstaff.
"Our engineers have gone over that line in other times when we've had derailments years ago. So they could do it again," Chrisman said.
During a press conference Thursday, Union Pacific confirmed they were working on a detour around the broken bridge.
"Even though this is a critical part of our infrastructure, we are rerouting some of our trains to meet our customer demands," said Lupe Valdez, a spokesperson for Union Pacific.
Valdez says it's the intention of Union Pacific to fix the bridge, however it's unclear how long that might take.