If several coal export terminal proposals in the planning stages throughout the Pacific Northwest come to fruition, they could lead to heavy congestion within the region’s rail system, according to a newly-released in-depth analysis.
The report, which was released July 11, was conducted by transportation experts Terry Whiteside and Gerald Fauth, III on behalf of conservation group Western Organization of Resource Councils.
Among the report’s key findings:
- The expected large coal volumes would result in several major choke points and bottlenecks and would likely cause rail congestion problems for the entire route. Some of the impacted railroad line segments, such as the line known as “The Funnel” from Sandpoint, Idaho to Spokane, Washington, already have significant rail capacity and congestion issues.
- The westbound movement of coal would likely disrupt the frequency and reliability of inbound and outbound shipments of containerized traffic, and that traffic would likely experience a diversion to California and Canadian ports where it will not be impacted by the congestion associated with the increased coal shipments to the Pacific Northwest.
- The two major cities that would be the most adversely affected in terms of the expected export coal trains per day are Spokane, Washington and Billings, Montana. Nearly every loaded and empty coal train would move through these two cities, with up to 63.2 trains per day traveling through Spokane and 57.6 trains per day going through Billings.
The report also states that the projected movement of 75 million tons per year by 2017 to 170 million tons per year by 2022 would equate to the movements of 27.86 to 63.15 loaded and empty coal trains per day.
Several of the larger coal export related port expansions are now in the formal permitting process, including Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Washington State and Millennium Bulk Logistics in Longview, Washington, Kinder Morgan Terminals at St. Helen’s, Oregon and Coyote Island Terminal at Port of Morrow.
The WORC’s full report can be seen at http://www.heavytrafficahead.org/pdf/Heavy-Traffic-Ahead-web.pdf .