Study highlights coal terminal impacts on region’s transportation and economy

The Puget Sound Regional Council released a new study today that evaluates the economic effects of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the central Puget Sound region.

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Pacific International Terminals’ (a subsidiary of SSA Marine) proposed terminal would be a dry bulk commodity export-import facility at Cherry Point, Washington, approximately 100 miles north of Seattle.

The proposed terminal expects to result in an additional 18 trains per day, each 1.6 miles long, between the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming through Washington State. The terminal is expected to primarily transfer coal to ships for export.

“The PSRC’s regional land use, economic development and transportation planning supports the vital role of international trade in our region’s economy. We also recognize the importance of our railways in keeping our seaports competitive. That’s why we need to stay on top of changes that could impact our economy and communities up and down the Sound,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, President of the PSRC.

The study found that most of the proposed terminal’s direct economic benefits accrue to Whatcom County.

Much of the direct costs to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties would be related to increased train traffic – traffic delays at rail crossings and infrastructure improvements.

The study assessed long term traffic impacts. Findings include:

  • Gateway Pacific Terminal traffic impacts due to increased times for passing trains would vary on the BNSF Railway mainline by an increase of 41 percent in Steilacoom to 147 percent in Marysville, with a regional average 65 percent increase.
  • The amount of additional time roads could be blocked by Gateway Pacific Terminal trains would range from 38 minutes to one hour and 26 minutes per day.
  • The study found that 34 of 101 rail crossings within the region could potentially benefit from mitigation related to Gateway Pacific Terminal impacts.
  • Grade separation (new under crossings or overcrossings) can be a desirable solution. Grade separation projects would likely cost between approximately $50 million and $200 million each – predominantly public funds.
  • The study identified 21 crossings in the region where additional waits for trains could impact the delivery of emergency response service due to close proximity to fire stations or emergency medical facilities.
  • The study found that low income and minority population in Kent and Seattle would have the highest disproportionate impacts from train operations. Low income and minority populations in Everett, Auburn, Algona, Pacific and Fife would also be impacted by the additional trains travelling to and from the proposed terminal.

The study also found that the region’s economy depends on robust rail service and that demands for increased service, for both freight and passengers, is likely to increase regardless of whether the Gateway project is approved and built.

The PSRC retained a consultant team to provide a comprehensive, independent evaluation of the economic effects of the proposed Gateway terminal on King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties.

The study’s two main purposes are to:

1. Better inform decision-makers and the public regarding the effects of the proposed terminal for the central Puget Sound region in advance of the project’s draft environmental impact statement due next year, and

2. Inform ongoing transportation planning within the region.

The study looked at the incremental economic effects of the Gateway project – it did not evaluate emerging issues related to proposed additional crude oil shipments by rail.

The study indicates that the proposed terminal could impact rail capacity within the region, depending on whether the BNSF Railway responds to the increase in demand for service by increasing capacity.

Rail freight and passenger traffic is projected to grow in Washington state and the central Puget Sound region. Rail service is critical to maintaining the region’s growing economy and creating jobs, the study found. In 2012, the value of goods moving through the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett were valued at more than $105 billion. Exports accounted for nearly $40 billion – everything from agricultural products to Boeing parts.

More than 4 million people board an Amtrak or Sounder train annually and the study says passenger growth is expected to continue.

More information on the study, including a presentation, staff summary, and full report, are available at psrc.org.

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Coal terminal economic study to be released Thursday

On Thursday the PSRC’s Executive Board will be presented with a study of the economic impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal on the central Puget Sound region.

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The PSRC study focuses on economic impacts within the central Puget Sound.

Last year the Executive Board initiated the study in anticipation of an upcoming draft environmental impact statement on the project, and to inform ongoing regional transportation planning.

The PSRC’s study looks at transportation and economic impacts within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties of the proposed export and import terminal at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham.

The proposed terminal is expected to generate as many as 18 additional trains per day, each 1.6 mile long  – primarily transporting coal for export and returning to mines in Montana and Wyoming.

Plans assume the terminal will start operation in 2019.

The study will be released at the Executive Board meeting, which starts at 10 a.m.

There’s a full agenda for the meeting.

The report will be available at www.psrc.org as the briefing starts, probably at about 10:30 a.m.

The meeting will be streamed live. If that is not working well, try this live stream.

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Big and small projects to get PSRC funding

As we’ve written about here, the Puget Sound Regional Council is getting ready to recommend $690 million to projects around the region through 2017.  On Thursday, July 24,  the Executive Board will consider approval.

As a transit provider to the region, the Monorail  receives federal funding to maintain the existing system and trains.

As a transit provider to the region, the Seattle Monorail will receive about $3 million in FTA funding to maintain the existing system and trains.

The biggest project award is $101,267,278 for King County Metro Vehicle, Equipment and Facilities Maintenance from the Federal Transit Administration.

The majority of PSRC’s FTA funds are distributed through an earned share process, with funding amounts corresponding to the transit service and operating characteristics of each transit agency in the region.

The smallest project award is $40,000 for Kitsap Transit’s electric vehicle charging station infrastructure at the Harper Church Park and Ride in Poulsbo and Bayside Park and Ride located in Kingston.

Find out more about all the recommended projects here.

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Brown bag on multimodal concurrency

Multimodal concurrency is the topic of this month’s TOOLBOX 2014 brown bag presentation on July 17, from 12:30-2:00 p.m., in PSRC’s board room.

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Concurrency is a key concept of growth management:  development should happen where adequate infrastructure already exists or is to be provided in the near future.

While many transportation concurrency programs currently focus only on vehicle throughput, VISION 2040 calls for jurisdictions to broaden those programs to address the movement of people and goods using multiple transportation modes.

This session will introduce helpful resources to assist local jurisdictions as they work on multimodal concurrency and will highlight efforts currently underway along with challenges encountered and lessons learned.

Speakers will include Yorik Stevens-Wajda, Puget Sound Regional Council, Ian Munce, AICP, City of Tacoma; and a panel of other local practitioners.

The TOOLBOX 2014 brown bag and peer networking series is co-sponsored by PSRC, the APA Washington Chapter, and the Washington State Department of Commerce. The brown bags are free and open to anyone who wants to join us.

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Congress moves patch for transportation

The House of Representatives voted to patch  federal transportation programs.  Today’s action follows a bipartisan agreement announced last week in the Senate.

The House passed legislation would sustain federal transportation funding and extend existing federal transportation programs through May of 2015.

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The White House released a report called: An Economic Analysis of Transportation Infrastructure Investment

The Obama administration has endorsed the House passed bill, and bolstered the case for action with release of an economic analysis of transportation investment.

The analysis reports that over 13,000 jobs in Washington state are at risk if federal transportation funding is not sustained – and that 22% of roads in Washington are in poor condition and 26% of bridges in the state are deficient or obsolete.

About 500 transportation projects underway in the region are counting on $2.7 billion in federal transportation funds over the next few years.

On Thursday the PSRC’s Executive Board will consider approval of projects for an additional $690 million in federal funds the region expects to receive in the next three years.

Congress and the Administration have until the end of the month to shore up transportation funding – which has been trending toward insolvency.

 

 

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New guidance and resources for local planning

Jurisdictions around the region are working on major updates to their comprehensive plans, and PSRC has released several new resources to help them.

Fountain Park in downtown Bremerton, one of the region's centers

Fountain Park in downtown Bremerton, one of the region’s centers

The Housing Element Guide and Appendix provide direction on techniques and data to inventory existing housing stock and assess housing needs, as well as guidance on housing policies and tools to promote a range of housing choices.

Growth Targets and Mode Split Goals for Regional Centers offers guidance for setting growth targets, and goals for increasing shares of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian trips in regional centers.

The Regional Centers Plan Checklist assists jurisdictions with designated centers or candidate centers by highlighting provisions to address in new or amended center plans. The checklist was recently updated to streamline content, focus on center-specific provisions, and clarify expectations.

These guidance materials supplement existing documents, such as the Plan Review Manual, with more detailed information on best practices and data, methodology, and implementation.

Later this summer, PSRC will also launch the Planning for Whole Communities Toolkit, a new web-based resource for local jurisdictions to promote health, equity, and sustainability in policies, programs, and comprehensive plans.

PSRC has several additional resources for local planning, including the Transit-Supportive Planning Toolkit, Housing Innovations Program, and Food Policy Blueprints.

 

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Mining for Northgate Link gets underway

On Wednesday, Sound Transit’s tunnel boring machine began mining the 3.5-mile underground route from Northgate to the University of Washington.

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The tunnel boring machine known as Brenda is now mining the light rail tunnel between the UW and Northgate.

When the light rail line opens in 2021, riders will be able to travel from Northgate to downtown in 14 minutes. PSRC has provided more than $33 million to this project since 2010.

The region’s Transportation 2040 plan includes Sound Transit’s ST2 program, which adds 36 miles of new light rail north from the University of Washington to Northgate and Lynnwood, south from Sea-Tac International Airport to the Redondo/Star Lake area near Federal Way, and east from Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond.

Light rail trains will provide service up to 20 hours a day and every few minutes during peak commuting periods.

Light rail investment at Northgate is also a catalyst for transforming the surrounding neighborhood. The City of Seattle has worked with residents to ensure that new transit-oriented development and other improvements will help create a complete, connected community.

The Northgate station area was one of the four demonstration projects that were part of the Growing Transit Communities partnership.

Through that work, the City of Seattle created an Urban Design Framework for the Northgate station area, and King County worked with the city and Sound Transit to explore redevelopment options for the existing transit station property, including designs for a pedestrian bridge to link the future light rail station to Northgate Community College across the freeway.

 

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