If coal-export terminals are built, including at Cherry Point, trains serving them could disrupt traffic on streets. But a spokesman from BNSF Railway said the railroad would pay no more than 5 percent of the costs of overpasses to separate train and car traffic.
Should the federal government provide substantial funds for the overpasses or should the railroad be required to pay more?
Answers varied from candidates seeking the U.S. House of Representatives seat for the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Mountlake Terrace into Whatcom County, where it includes Bellingham and land south of it.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, currently represents the district, a seat he's held since winning election in 2000. He's being challenged by Republicans Dan Matthews, John C.W. Shoop and Eli Olson; Mike Lapointe of "The 99% Party" and Glen Johnson, who listed no party preference. The two with the most votes in the Aug. 7 primary move on to the Nov. 6 general election.
"This project creates hundreds of good-paying jobs in Whatcom County at a time when thousands are out of work and the average county wage is less than the statewide average," Larsen stated in an elections questionnaire from The Bellingham Herald.
The terminal operators need to be held accountable for taxes to help support services including public safety, education and health care, Larsen wrote.
"And the terminal operators need to be held accountable for mitigation of health, traffic and infrastructure concerns," he wrote.
Matthews emphasized minimizing impacts of coal trains, including safety, noise and traffic disruptions. There are also environmental and emergency preparedness challenges from the trains and the ships carrying coal, he wrote.
"While the commerce, the jobs and the benefits of the coals trains may be worth considering - it is imperative that the impact at every level should be examined so that viable solutions can be instituted," Matthews wrote. "It will doubtless cost BNSF more than they might have thought, but we all benefit by carefully implemented solutions that protect us all."
The government should consider fees to be assessed on the railroad to offset local improvements that are necessary, he wrote. Any public money spent should be matched by some formula-based assessment on the railroad, he wrote, and the money could create a contingency fund to pay for damages caused by accidents or other unanticipated issues.
"The citizens need and deserve some guarantees as to minimizing the impact of the coal trains, and the monetary impact should be borne chiefly by the railroad," he wrote.
Lapointe of the Occupy Everett movement said he'd fight coal trains.
"The federal government should not provide funds for rail improvements to bring dirty coal through our communities," he wrote. "The government should stand with the local communities and say 'hell no' to dirty coal. For profit we have our community ruined and our health destroyed! And we have to pay for the tracks they use to do this to us? Whose community is this? Whose country is this? Let them live by the tracks and see how they like it!"
Shoop wrote that we don't need grade separations (overpasses), "therefore, we don't need to consider funding."
Johnson didn't provide a response to the questionnaire request, and Olson couldn't be reached for participation in the questionnaire.
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