At a press conference this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn announced his intention to commission a study to analyze the economic impacts of coal trains that may start rumbling through Seattle's waterfront on a daily basis on their way to a proposed coal port terminal outside of Bellingham.
"Seventy percent of our visitors are families who come in cars," explains Kyle Griffith, the owner of Pier 57's Great Wheel. "We're very concerned that a wall of coal trains could cut off [public] access just when the ugly, noisy viaduct is coming down."
The city is currently requesting proposals (RFPs) for the $25,000 study, which will seek to address:
· Impacts on the Port of Seattle, both on operations and employment
· Impacts on businesses along the Duwamish industrial and waterfront districts
· What infrastructure and mitigation efforts are necessary to offset the coal trains
This continued full-court press against coal trains comes follows a previous city-commissioned that concluded coal trains would delay downtown traffic by one to three hours a day. It also comes the day before the state's last public meeting seeking comment on the Bellingham coal train proposal, which will take place tomorrow at Seattle's Convention Center.
(The US Army Corps of Engineers and Washington's Department of Ecology are currently in the midst of a three-month public comment period to determine which impacts should be studied before issuing or denying permits for the coal terminal. The comment period ends January 21, 2013.)
Turnout at the previous six public meetings has been unexpectedly robust and so anti-coal train that railway companies have been hiring people to stand in line and speak positively about the coal train proposal. Several legislators have called on the state to commission a state-wide study of economic impacts. Meanwhile, governor-elect Jay Inslee refuses to address the issue, which is especially troublesome, given its sensitive timeline.
"This is a project with multi-state implications," McGinn said. "The state needs to step up and take a leadership role on this issue."