Will Seattle become the Pittsburgh of the Pacific Northwest?
The answer could come as soon as March 30, when the city of Seattle is slated to release a report detailing the impact of a proposed coal train line on the city.
Mayor Mike McGinn commissioned the report last July, when debate over the coal train pitted conservationists and other Puget Sound residents against coal train backers who see the new enterprise as a way to spur economic growth.
"The impacts of the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) are not confined to Bellingham or Whatcom County. Seattle would experience nine 1.5-mile-long trains of coal every day through our waterfront, with potentially significant impacts on traffic, air quality and water quality," McGinn said.
The real estimate is that nine trains full of coal and nine empty coal cars will run a route that passes along the Seattle, Edmonds, Everett and Bellingham waterfronts. Many of these former industrial zones have undergone reclamation and cleanup over the years, spurring coal train opponents to decry the region’s potential to become “The Pittsburgh of the Northwest.”
The developer of Gateway Pacific, SSA Marine of Seattle, wants to build a coal shipping facility 17 miles north of Bellingham at Cherry Point. The proposal calls for 24 million tons of coal to be shipped to Asia, with coal trains carrying the goods from Montana and Wyoming, a plan extensively reported.
In the face of this huge project, Seattle Mayor McGinn has cautiously warned that Seattle must protect its larger interests in the face of this coal train deal. With the city’s economy outpacing the rest of the region, Seattle has a vested interest in analyzing the environmental and economic impacts of these trains.
The report from the Seattle city office of Economic Development is expected to address the coal trains’ impacts on the Port of Seattle and the Duwamish industrial and north waterfront districts. It will also look at the potential displacement of higher value goods that use the same rail tracks. The report is also expected to determine what additional infrastructure improvements would be needed to deal with long train crossings at key intersections in the city.