Scoping Request – Gateway Pacific Terminal

DRAFT – Subject to Change

Our Association, The Edgemoor Neighborhood Association (ENA) encompasses some 900 homes in Bellingham, Washington and was formed in July 2004 to provide a structure for neighbors to come together and talk about common concerns and issues. Our neighborhood is located in the southwest quadrant of the City, along the waterfront and the BNSF mainline, and adjacent to the commercial district of Fairhaven.

We respectfully request that the scope of the Gateway Pacific Terminal environmental review include several areas of potential impact directly affecting our association’s members:

Increased train noise and vibrations
The 18 trains a day required to serve the GPT terminal would more than double existing train traffic levels in our community. For this reason, we request that the EIS address the following questions:

  • ·         What would this increase in train traffic mean for the level of train noise from horns, screeching and rumbling in our neighborhood, particularly for the residents living adjacent to or in close proximity to the tracks? 
  • ·         What are the potential sleep disturbances and/or other negative health impacts that may be associated with this increase in train traffic?
  • ·         What risks would the increase in vibrations from heavy coal trains pose to structural integrity of homes and properties along the waterfront and the stability of the bluff?

New rail infrastructure near or through the Edgemoor neighborhood
Current rail traffic is operating near peak capacity on the existing rail line. Washington State Department of Transportation planning documents have highlighted the need for a new, active rail siding should train traffic increase to GPT levels.[i] The documents indicate that the preferred siding location stretches between mileposts 92 to 98 along the Bellingham waterfront running north from Fairhaven.  However, BNSF has not disclosed the siding location. One possible alternate location identified is south of Bellingham, through the Edgemoor tunnel, across the trestle on MudBay and along ChuckanutBay. This location could directly impact our neighborhood with higher exposure to diesel particulate matter and fugitive coal dust as trains idle on the active siding. A new siding running north from Fairhaven would also potentially affect our members, particularly the residents living on the north side of Edgemoor that faces Fairhaven. The questions we request be studied in relation to new rail infrastructure in our areas are:

  • ·         What is the precise location of the new siding?
  • ·         What are possible adverse impacts of the siding for our neighborhood, including increased diesel emissions in our area, an increase in fugitive coal dust and noise implications?

Property values
Lastly, the ENA is concerned about the very real possibility of decreased property values as a result of increased coal train freight traffic.  A recent analysis by The Eastman Company, of Seattle, WA determined that for properties located north of Everett, the impacts of GPT traffic on single-family residences in close proximity to the BNSF tracks could be considerable: “The applicable range of diminution in value for single family residences, the property type expected to suffer the most severe impacts, has been concluded to range from five to twenty percent of market value.”[ii] Our neighborhood encompasses many properties that are precisely the most vulnerable to decreases in market value.  We therefore request that the following be studied:

  • ·         What is the anticipated impact of GPT freight traffic on Edgemoor property values?
  • ·         What is the associated decline in the value of the City’s tax base?
  • ·         How will the City and property owners be compensated for any losses?

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


The Edgemoor Neighborhood Association



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