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Storm-slammed Rail Runner service should be fully restored Saturday

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A construction crew makes repairs to Rail Runner tracks damaged in Thursday night\’s thunderstorms. (Courtesy Rio Metro Regional Transit District)

SANTA FE — Flooding from Thursday night’s rain storm washed out railroad tracks on pueblo land between Bernalillo and Santa Fe, forcing the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train to suspend service north of the Sandoval County/U.S. 550 station on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Rio Metro Regional Transit District on Friday said repairs were being made along about a half-mile stretch of track on San Felipe and Santo Domingo pueblos and the entire route from Belen to Santa Fe should be back in operation Saturday.

“It looks like we’ll be good to go,” said Augusta Meyers, Rio Metro spokeswoman.

She said flooding from Thursday’s storm misaligned the track about a mile north of Hagen Road on San Felipe Pueblo, almost pushing the rails off a bridge in one spot.

“We do continuing maintenance on these culverts in our 100-mile corridor, but we can’t plan for a 100-year flood,” she said. “When you get hit by a flash flood — with that amount of water and the force of that water — it’s going to do some damage.”

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This nighttime photo provided by the Rio Metro Regional Transit District shows debris on Rail Runner tracks between Bernalillo and Santa Fe after Thursday night’s storm. (Courtesy Rio Metro Regional Transit District)

Damage to the track also affected Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which uses that section of track as part of its daily passenger service between Chicago and Los Angeles. An Amtrak spokesman said hundreds of passengers had to board a charter buses to make the connection between Lamy, southeast of Santa Fe, and Albuquerque.

Meyers said the Rail Runner stopped running north of Bernalillo about 7 p.m. Thursday after a late afternoon rainstorm caused flash floods. She said about 100 train passengers left stranded by the washout had to be bused between Bernalillo and Santa Fe Thursday night.

As much as 1.50 inches of rain fell in parts of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service office. Bernalillo got 1.24 inches. Parts of Santa Fe — hit with its own flooding after a massive storm Monday night — got about a half inch Thursday evening.

Friday was the third time in four years that Rail Runner service between Bernalillo and Santa Fe had to be suspended due to flooding. In July 2015, flooding washed out about 100 feet of track on the bridge at Arroyo Maria Chavez north of Algodones. A bridge was also washed out near Budaghers in 2014.

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