Study suggests coal trains a detriment

By Barbara Tipton | Apr 26, 2012


During the last several weeks several gentlemen have criticized Council President Strom Peterson’s informative essay, “Visualize Edmonds without Coal Trains”, published in the March 22 edition of the Edmonds Beacon.

I would recommend that the gentlemen read a study entitled “The Impact of the Development of the Gateway Pacific Terminal on the Whatcom County Economy.”

The document, prepared by Public Financial Management Incorporated, was published on March 6, 2012.

While the study was quite comprehensive, I will focus only on the effects of increased rail traffic on the shoreline communities along Puget Sound.

According to the study, Pacific International Terminals Incorporated will be using 7,000 foot long trains for transporting coal to the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.

Each train will span approximately 1.3 miles.

SSA anticipates use of 8,500 foot-long, approximately 1.6 miles in the future.

Even more rail crossings will result from empty trains returning from the terminal.

Mr. Bart Cronin, in his March 29 letter to the editor, has taken the time to observe and measure rail traffic flowing through Edmonds.

However he neglects to describe the potential impact of additional trains on our community. The study does address the effects.

All of our rail crossings in Edmonds are at-grade.

Several modes of transportation meet at Main Street including trains, the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, busses, automobiles, and foot traffic.

Additional train traffic will increase the amount of time the rail crossings would be closed to all other modes of transportation.

The study indicates that traffic congestion and delays will increase the need for additional traffic management around the waterfront area.

Also, providing emergency service access to the waterfront will be difficult if a long train was stopped or moving slowly along the tracks.

It is likely that the additional rail traffic will have a negative impact on the property value of residential properties that abut the rail lines.

The study cites a November 2011 analysis that examined the impact of rail freight traffic on home values in Los Angeles after the Alameda Corridor rerouted rail traffic into one higher capacity rail line.

The study found approximately a 2.0 percent decrease in average home values where rail traffic increased.

Yet another result would be lessening access to businesses, restaurants, the senior center, and recreational areas along the waterfront.

And think about our aspirations to attract additional residents and visitors to our city.

The Port of Edmonds, in conjunction with citizens, has developed a redevelopment vision for Harbor Square.

The implementation of the plan could be jeopardized by the increased number of coal trains barreling through the port’s backyard.

Mr. Steven Keeler’s April 12 letter refers to Councilmember Peterson’s column as a fantasy.

Mr. Peterson’s essay depicts the stark reality of a coal conveyor coursing through our town. Beware.


Barbara Tipton



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