Coal trains could derail Marysville's economy

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Updated Thursday, May 2 at 5:44 PM

Marysville isn't a city with an "other side of the tracks." It's a city with "both sides of the tracks."

Marysville runs north-south, through Snohomish County, separated at 16 different points from the economic lifeline of Interstate 5 by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line. These are the tracks that some want to use to ship coal to a proposed new terminal in Bellingham. It would mean thousands of jobs, but at what cost to Marysville?

Slumber Ease Mattress Factory has been in business alongside the tracks for 53 years. Allowing more coal cars to rumble through town would double train traffic here, causing sleepless nights for mattress makers.

“If the city doesn’t have a plan to move people over the tracks, it's going to turn into a ghost town, business-wise,” said owner Nick Rothrock. “You can already see it happening.”

As it stands now, people have to wait through 3 or 4 traffic light cycles when a big trains roll though town. A study by Gibson Traffic Consultants of Everett found an additional 18 coal train crossings would mean an additional two to three hours of sitting in traffic.

“Last time I got caught behind one I counted 123 cars,” said one man sitting in traffic on State Street. “It would pretty much shut down all the manufacturing we do on the other side of the city here,” said another man waiting at the crossing.

Making matters worse, city planners because of Marysville's layout, bridges or tunnels are not options.

Mayor Jon Nehring worries about the impact on emergency services. “The last thing we want is for a fire truck or police officer to be sitting at a track when somebody needs their assistance.”

One option is a $1.8 million ramp connecting I-5 and Highway 529. The question is, how to pay for it. 

If the new terminal is approved, Mayor Nehring says he will push for money from the railroad, terminal operator, along with federal and state governments to fix the city's train traffic problem.  

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