The proposed coal export terminals have serious implications for rail congestion in the region as well as road congestion due to delays as coal trains pass through towns.
There are three active proposals in Washington and Oregon: Cherry Point, WA, Longview, WA and Boardman, OR that if all built would ship 100 million metric tons of coal abroad each year. Transporting that much coal would add more than 8,000 noisy mile-long loaded coal trains to region’s rail system every year–or 40 additional coal trains every day.
An already limited system could see dramatic increases in delays and local communities could face significant impacts as a result of increased train traffic. A 2006 comprehensive analysis of Washington State’s train transit by Cambridge Systematics determined the system is nearing capacity and indicated significant bottlenecks and congestion at important ports and cities due to limited capacity in rail yards and poor station configuration. This analysis was completed before the coal terminals were proposed and the addition of coal trains would dramatically amplify the delays and limitations in Washington’s rail system already identified in 2006. The rail capacity consumed by coal trains limit expansion of passenger trains and impairs trains ability to cost-effectively and quickly transport Washington’s other products.
The addition of coal trains at projected numbers would require massive investment in rail infrastructure such as sidings, double-tracking, and other improvements in order for our train system to function effectively. That kind of congestion could require taxpayers to bear the brunt of significant rail expansion. It is hard to imagine where this funding will come from and if it does, at what cost to citizens in the region?
Communities bisected by rail, such as Missoula, MT or Marysville, WA face tremendous delays that disrupt daily life as a result of the quantity of trains needed to transport millions of tons of coal. The increase in coal train traffic also jeopardizes Bellingham’s recent $2 billion Waterfront Redevelopment Project to attract business and development for the region.
The coal train traffic may also take to the Colombia River which, in addition to clogging an already crowded water way, could diminish tribal fishing, hurt salmon populations and block popular recreation.
Learn more about coal export’s impact on transportation:
Increased Coal Train Traffic and Real Estate Values | November 2012 | The Eastman Company
City of Seattle Coal Train Traffic Study | November 2012 | Parametrix
Coal Train Spill Raises Questions About Export Plans | July 2012 | KUOW
Heavy Traffic Ahead: Rail Impacts of Powder River Basin Coal to Asia | July 2012 | Western Organization of Resource Councils
Coal Shipping: From Powder River Basin to Cherry Point on BNSF’s Preferred Route | August 2011 | RE Sources
Coal Shipping: Where Powder River Basin coal goes | September 2011
Carbon Offshoring: The Legal and Regulatory Framework for U.S. Coal Exports | July 2011 | Columbia Law School