Mitigating Effects and Working with the Railroad

This is a Sept. 2012 article from Seattle Business Magazine.  The author, Elaine Bowers, quotes Ken Opplinger, head of the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce.  “At the Chamber of Commerce, Oplinger says he expects the BNSF Railway to “come to the table” to look at ways of lessening the impact of additional trains, including possibly moving tracks that now cross the city’s new waterfront redevelopment site and creating a federally defined “quiet zone” through Bellingham. A new route would eliminate train whistles by requiring double crossing arms, fencing near the crossing to limit pedestrian access and other safety measures. “Rather than try to fight it off,” he says, “if we can find ways to work with the railroad and mitigate the effects, we would be much better off.” 
 
Safeguard the Southfork has always maintained that the potentiality for employing the totality of the BNSF system in Whatcom County exists; that the alternative to the coastal route in the South Fork Valley and the farmlands of eastern/ northern Whatcom County from Wickersham to Sumas along with a Lynden spur could be employed to mitigate capacity and political impacts.  Opplinger speaks to BNSF’s need to seek compromise with the establishment of a new route and operational procedures.  
 
It is BNSF’s prerogative to increase capital investment and upgrade to it’s heaviest duty Ribbon Rail on the farmland route recently; even when current rail traffic does not necessarily warrant it.  Those of us who have been monitoring the improvements to enhance rail capacity through the Whatcom Farmland route as well as the Abbotsford  to Westshore (and Blaine), cringe at the possibility that GPT watchers are not sufficiently savvy to the coy game that is playing out once GPT and their friends start eyeing a “NEW ROUTE”.  
 
By promoting misinformation and confusion BNSF and GPT obsfucate the possibility of employing the alternative farmland route, removing it from discourse while simultaneously laying the groundwork for using the route either as part of a loop which would ameliorate capacity problems as well as, in part the social controversies in Bellingham. 
 
GPT watchers would be wise to familiarize themselves with the history of the state legislature’s proposed Commerce Corridor for Washington State which was studied by Wilbur Smith & Associates in 2002.  The Commerce Corridor envisioned enhanced rail and concomitant highway redevelopment from the northern border to the Columbia River and found it unfeasible for economic and environmental reasons.
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