Politics Blog

Latest coal terminal study: Impacts to Central Puget Sound mostly negative

A new study concludes that a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point would bring modest benefits but also economic losses and declining property values to communities in the Central Puget Sound.

The Puget Sound Regional Council released a 235-page report today (Thursday, July 24) outlining the economic impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the economies of King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

More railroad tracks in Seattle would be a good thing for entities such as Port of Seattle, which could attract other shippers as a result of the larger capacity.

Potentially outweighing that would be increased travel time on roads due to longer waits at busier railroad crossings, the report said. Residential and non-residential property values could also decline as a result of the increased train traffic.

Estimates were taken out to 2035 and would depend on a lot of factors that haven't been determined yet, including where and how many new tracks would be laid by railroad companies such as BNSF Railway.

Much attention was given to the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, which combine to bring more than $100 billion in goods in and out annually. A majority of that is moved to or from the ports by rail.

The Council's report mentions that rail traffic is increasing overall. It goes on to say that the projected increase in train activity does not take into account shipments of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota.

"Gate-down" time at crossings along BNSF's Puget Sound line would increase by 38 to 85 minutes with the addition of trains to and from Gateway Pacific, the report concluded. Gate-down times currently range from 13 to 80 minutes but would increase from there by 2035 even without GPT.

The report includes a summary of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project and summarizes already-existing research this study was built on, including a 2012 study focused on Whatcom County that was funded by Communitywise Bellingham.

These are the three bullet points in the Puget Sound Regional Council report, under "economic analysis" for 2035:

-- Additional gate-down time could result in a marginal economic cost to the Central Puget Sound.

-- Increased freight-train traffic could result in a marginal reduction to residential property values in the same region.

-- Same with nonresidential property values.

Other coverage of the latest study on GPT:

Puget Sound Business Journal