MOUNT VERNON — A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train stalled in the heart of Mount Vernon Thursday morning, snarling traffic along West Fir Street, Riverside Drive and College Way.
The train halted traffic for 45 minutes to an hour, said Mount Vernon Police Sgt. Peter Lindberg. The train was moved about 10:45 a.m.
BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said mechanics inspected the train for what appeared to be a locked wheel.
The engine was located beneath the Second Street viaduct, with the train cars to the north. Mount Vernon police say there were no injuries or traffic collisions reported.
“It didn’t cause us a problem, but it had a potential to cause us a problem,” said Mount Vernon Fire Department Chief Roy Hari.
He said his engines at Station 2 on LaVenture Road could only get to the other side of the railroad tracks by using the Second Street viaduct.
“If we have to go anywhere from there and it’s blocking Kincaid, it makes it quite interesting to get around town if you have a train parked in the middle of the city,” Hari said.
Lyle Gerrits, owner of Northwest Fine Furnishings on Riverside Drive, took advantage of the traffic jam to wave a sign protesting the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Bellingham. The terminal would export bulk commodities to Asia, including coal from America’s Midwest, and bring as many as 18 additional trains through Mount Vernon and Burlington.
Gerrits met one of the terminal’s supporters, who was sitting in traffic in front of his store. The man was upset at Gerrits’ sign, which read “Coal Train” with a red “X” symbol through the words.
“He said ‘that means 800 jobs,’” Gerrits said. “Yeah, for the hospital, for doctors, for nurses, the car repair folks.”
Gerrits said he also owns a farm in Blanchard that is within a quarter mile of the train tracks.
“I don’t see what the benefits are,” he said. “Temporary jobs and long-term consequences aren’t good.”
Skagit 911 Director Bill King said emergency dispatchers were aware of the trains blocking the intersections.
“We make sure that all of our user agencies are notified” when intersections are blocked, King said. “Knowing where they can go beforehand is usually a lot of help to them.”
The 911 center attempts to figure out what is wrong with the train and a timeline for its removal, as well as if there are any hazardous materials on board that first-responders might need to know about, King said.
Skagit Transit buses also sat in the traffic jam for the duration. A notification on the agency’s Twitter account posted at 10:30 a.m. said, “All Mount Vernon buses are stalled due to trains.” A spokesman with the agency did not return calls seeking comment.