Cantwell urges WSDOT assessment of coal terminals’ effect on transportation

By:  Marqise Allen
Source: Longview Daily News

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has asked Washington transportation officials to study the effect four proposed coal export terminals would have on Washington's waterways, rail lines and roadways.

Cantwell, D-Wash., wrote to Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond early this month.

"If approved, these export facilities would dramatically increase the coal-exporting capacity in Washington state, from just over five million tons last year to over 100 million tons," Cantwell wrote. "Combined with export terminals in Oregon, over 150 million tons of coal per year could potentially make its way through various parts of our state's transportation system."

Cantwell expressed concerns that increased coal-related rail traffic might delay Amtrak and other freight trains and require a lot of public investment to address.

Cantwell's letter was sent about a week before a study by the nonprofit Western Organization of Resource Council concluded that the coal terminals would cause rail congestion throughout a three-state region. However, Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials called the report flawed, due to its assumption that all six export terminals would move forward. BNSF officials also said that they would make the investments necessary to keep trains moving.

Cantwell said she hopes to have more information from the state available to further evaluate the situation. "We need to better understand what investments and impacts these terminals would have on our state's transportation system and communities across the state, from Spokane to Puget Sound."