DENVER (AP) – Union Pacific plans to close a repair facility in Denver and shift more than 200 jobs elsewhere because of the sharp decline in coal demand.
The Denver Post reports that the railroad told workers at its Burnham Shop repair yard this week that the facility will close on Feb. 14.
Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite said the number of coal trains originating in Colorado has declined 80 percent since 2005.
Demand for coal has fallen sharply in recent years because many utilities switched to burning natural gas and environmental regulations raised concerns about pollution at coal plants.
“The well-documented decline in the coal carloadings in Colorado – a result of natural gas prices and regulatory pressure – has diminished the need for locomotive repairs and overhauls in the Denver area,” Hite said.
The Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad plans to keep about 90 workers at another Denver facility. The other 210 workers can transfer or accept a severance package.
Hite says other Union Pacific shops in North Platte and South Morrill, Nebraska, and in North Little Rock, Arkansas, will take over the locomotive repairs that had been done in Denver.
Most of the workers whose jobs are being eliminated in Denver are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 19 in Denver.
Rich Nadeau with the machinists union said the Burnham rail yard Union Pacific is closing is the largest railroad maintenance facility in Colorado, so it could be difficult for workers to find another job in the area.
“We’re going to do everything we can to help our members and our friends get through this as easily as possible,” he said.
Union Pacific plans to prepare the 70-acre site of the locomotive repair facility for sale. It is located east of Interstate 25 between West Sixth and West Eighth avenues.
The repair facility was first established by the Denver & Rio Grande railroad in the 1870s, but city officials said the Burnham repair facility isn’t considered a historic landmark.
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