Coal plans raise rail questions
By Erik Siemers
Coal export facilities will mean increased train traffic in Oregon and Washington, raising questions about who will pay for additional capacity.
Miller said four major intersections, where road meets railroad along the six-mile short-line track, will deliver coal to the terminal, including two next to residential areas.
Millennium — an entity owned 62 percent by Australia coal giant Ambre Energy and 38 percent by St. Louis-based coal firm Arch Coal Inc. — will make efforts to ensure that those crossings are so-called “quiet crossings,” built to standards that won’t require disruptive horns to be blown as they travel past, Miller said.
The company is also in the process of completing environmental impact statements, a process that could take two years.
Rail companies could pay
Even if such studies determine ways to ease the effect of increased train traffic, there is still an open question as to who will pay for it.
Miller said in his 20-plus years of experience, the major railroad companies have not hesitated to invest in capacity upgrades when demand warranted it.
Officials with Teevin Bros., a lumber company with a log yard in Rainier, had been concerned with whether coal trains would disrupt their access to the Portland & Western tracks that carry the company’s log exports.
But Eric Oien, the company’s general manager, said he’s been given assurances by Portland & Western that it would bring in additional track, including one right in front of the company’s log yard, that wouldn’t be compacted by coal trains.
“We’re obviously pro-business and a big supporter of growth and jobs coming to the community,” Oien said. “As long as Portland & Western is willing to work with us, we’re happy.”
That sort of work, though, may be years down the road.
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