Crain's Detroit Business: John Taylor on impact of Port Huron train derailment
A Canadian National Railway train derailed early Friday morning inside the Port Huron-to-Sarnia rail tunnel under the St. Clair River, clogging up international train traffic at the border, according to Port Huron's city manager. Approximately 40 rail cars derailed inside the tunnel while the train was passing through the one-lane St. Clair River Tunnel, Port Huron City Manager James Freed said. CN Rail owns it, according to Freed, who said he was told CN is rerouting trains "as far back as Chicago." Due to height differences, not all lines can be rerouted through Detroit. The 24-year-old St. Clair Tunnel can accommodate double-stacked containers of up to 9 feet 6 inches high each, while Detroit's 109-year-old Michigan Central Railway Tunnel under the Detroit River can only accommodate up to 8 feet 6 inches each, according to John Taylor, chair of the Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business's department of marketing and supply chain management. Taylor said the Detroit tunnel was enlarged in the mid-1990s by removing concrete from the inside to get extra clearance for taller rail cars. The Port Huron crossing pass primarily takes cargo between Halifax or Montreal and Chicago, while the Detroit crossing primarily carries traffic between Montreal and Chicago, according to Taylor. Port Huron moves a large amount of manufactured goods and automotive components, and a lesser amount of consumer goods, he said. Taylor doesn't expect the Port Huron tunnel to be closed for long, barring unforeseen circumstances. He expects any significant impacts would subside in three to four days or so. "Keep in mind all the railroads contract with quick-response companies," Taylor said. "Whether it's a tunnel or not, they have these quick-response crews with all sorts of specialized equipment (to replace broken tracks) ... If you've got a fixed track and it's closed, trains start backing up, right?"