Coal Train Traffic

For all of the discussion of how the new arena in SoDo would hurt traffic, you’d think this would be a bigger deal.

Coal trains can easily be 8,000 feet long, which means that it takes more than 6 minutes to clear a street crossing when traveling at 15 mph, a pretty typical speed in an urban area. Then factor in 30 seconds of street closure time for warning signals to sound or crossing arms to stop traffic, plus 30 seconds to re-start traffic after the train has cleared the intersection. Add it all up and you get this: Bellingham’s new loaded coal trains would completely cut off street intersections by somewhere between 105 minutes and 125 minutes of every day.

I don’t want to be disingenuous here. I support more rail infrastructure at the port and oppose the coal trains for non-traffic reasons much more than this. Still, if the trains come, hopefully they come with more infrastructure to mitigate this.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The U.S. coal export trade is being driven by falling domestic demand. Our coal mining companies hope to partially offset this by selling more coal to Asia. But the economics look suspicious. The Powder River Basin produces high quality coal but is a long way from anywhere. If you’re a Chinese or Indian customer, Australia is much closer. It also should be noted that China is lying about its economy and accordingly their energy needs are less than western estimates. Coal is piling up in Chinese storage yards and they’re not rushing to buy more. So it’s questionable how reliable a market this is, and whether the economics of a local coal terminal would work out, if demand proves less than expected.

    Disclaimer: Roger Rabbit owns Arch and Peabody coal stock and will make money from this terminal if it’s built.

  2. 3

    Michael spews:

    China has a whole fucking bunch of power plants that it built that aren’t even connected to the power grid. I think the idea is that the countries power use and grid will continue to grow and at some point they’ll get hooked up. But, who knows. I have no idea of these “ghost plants” are counted in China’s need for coal.

    The whole country of China is a giant cluster fuck and how it doesn’t all collapse is beyond my comprehension.

  3. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 3, 4: Well, for our sake I hope they keep propped up for a little bit longer, at least until Europe sorts out it’s mess. An economic depression in Europe is bad enough, but add China to that list and it becomes a world-wide depression. I’d rather not have the President to get re-elected just in time to shovel his way out of that mess.

  4. 6

    Change in Time spews:

    Yeah, and these proposed trains don’t arrive full by rail and grow wings to fly back to Wyoming either. It’s rail both ways. Even though I live a block from the main BNSF line, my main argument against exporting the coal is in the CO2 and mercury spewed from burning it. Facts:

    2.86 pounds of CO2 generated for every pound of coal burned; and

    Oh well, CO2 is already at 390 ppm, what the hell a “little” more won’t make any difference.

    63.33 pounds of mercury spewed for every million tons of coal burned (using EPA emission figures for relatively clean Transalta Centralia in 2009)

    Seafood already has too much mercury in it, so let’s just say “fuck it” and add more?

  5. 7

    Politically Incorrect - who has been banned over at spews:

    “What we do know for sure is their official economic data are a pack of lies.”

    Especially true in the US, rodent. The government lies to us all the time, but it’s a big fucking deal when some lone individual lies to the government. We have a lying bunch of assholes as elected officials, and a massive jobs program for millions of other liars and cheats who happen to be government “employees.” In 1900, we had 1 government employee for each 100 folks employed in the private sector. Today we have 16 government employees for every 100 private sector workers. {Sourse: Stossel on the Fox Business Network, Thursday at 6 pm.) The government is just too fucking big! We can start reducing it by leaving all foreign lands and demobilizing the troops. Then we can turn our attention to those cry-babies in government who think they have an inherited right to have a govnerment job with lots of government bennies.

  6. 8

    Godwin spews:

    That is like saying that we should close down Pike St because the traffic signal holds up traffic on Boren. Newsflash: Coal IS freight. You don’t mean to sound disingenuous, but….you just are; especially if you haven’t said dick about McGinn’s arena.

  7. 9



    Since this was a post arguing for mitigation of the ills to traffic if those coal trains come, by your logic, you’d seem to be saying we shouldn’t do things to mitigate traffic on Pike if there was significantly more traffic on Boren. Also, Darryl has covered the Stadium more than I have (it would be repetitive for me to do similar posts), but I have linked to critics in open threads. Finally, your joke would be better if I’d said “I don’t want to sound” instead of “I don’t want to be.”

  8. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Take a pill and chill. The U.S. is by far the best place in the world to invest. If you don’t want to believe that, I know a guy who wants to sell you some Chinese stock. I get a cut, of course.

  9. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 PI, I appreciate the fact you at least try to pretend to be an independent thinker. And there’s no rule on this blog (that I know of) against ventilating. But when you post stuff like this, you’re asking to be picked apart. I’m now going to do just that.

    “The government lies to us all the time”

    This is difficult to respond to without a context, so I’ll provide one: For 50 years (I started working at age 12), the government promised I would get Social Security benefits at age 62, and that promise was kept. The government told me how much I would get every month, and that’s how much I’ve gotten every month, without fail. They didn’t lie about that. United Airlines, by contrast, dumped its employee pensions on the taxpayers; so did a long list of other private businesses. The government has a much better record of keeping pension promises than the private sector does. In fact, when the private sector falls on its ass — as it does frequently — we rely on the government to pick up those comopanies’ obligations and honor them, and the government comes through for us. That’s a pretty good record (for the government) if you ask me.

    Our government puts out a raft of economic statistics that are used by policymakers, businesses, and investors. To the best of my knowledge, the government employees compiling these data are honest, honorable, and skillful people. Everyone knows these data aren’t perfect and sometimes must be revised, but everyone takes that into account and adjusts for it when making business and investment decisions, so this isn’t that much of a problem or hindrance. U.S. economic data are the best in the world. Go USA!

    “but it’s a big fucking deal when some lone individual lies to the government.”

    Depends on what you’re lying about. If you fill out a government form that has financial impacts, yes, it can be a big fucking deal. An example is a businessman applying for a Small Business Administration loan who makes false statements about his assets and liabilities. This is called “fraud” and you can go to jail for it. On the other hand, if you lie about serving in the military and receiving a bunch of medals, the government can’t do anything to do, unless somebody gets hurt by your actions.

    I personally have never had a problem with a lie to the government turning into a big fucking deal because … well … because I never lied to the government. So it’s not a problem for me.

    If you don’t mind my asking, what did you lie to the government, and what did they do to you?

    “We have a lying bunch of assholes as elected officials”

    Yeah. The key word here, though, is “elected.” To get elected to anything in this country, you have to get more votes than any other candidate. So somebody is voting for these lying assholes, or they couldn’t get elected. That “somebody” is you and me, or our friends and neighbors. We elect these lying assholes and then we bitch about them; go figure.

    “and a massive jobs program for millions of other liars and cheats who happen to be government ‘employees.'”

    You’ve never had to actually work for a government employer, have you? I did and worked my ass off. If you think government employment is a featherbedding gig, then why don’t you get in line to sign up for one of those cushy government jobs? I was able to get one, and based on what you’ve repeatedly told us in these threads, you’re at least as smart and hard-working as me, so you shouldn’t have any problem getting hired.

    “In 1900, we had 1 government employee for each 100 folks employed in the private sector.”

    There were no airplanes then, so we didn’t need an FAA or TSA. There were no cars then, so we didn’t need a Department of Transportation. Most people didn’t attend school beyond 6th grade, so we didn’t need as many teachers. The defense budget was $76.2 million in 1900, compared to >$700 billion today, so we didn’t need as many generals, admirals, colonels, and procurement specialists and contracting officers. I could go on, but you should get the idea: The population is bigger, the economy is bigger, the world is more complex, so the government has more functions and needs more employees.

    “Today we have 16 government employees for every 100 private sector workers.”

    That sounds about right. Federal taxes are 16% of GDP and federal spending is about 22% – 23% of GDP. So government employment is at the low end of this range. The difference gets spend on military hardware, benefits, and stuff like that.

    “The government is just too fucking big!”

    This is a philosophical and/or political argument, not an economic one. I would argue we had too many torturers and not have enough bank regulators on the federal payroll during the period 2001 – 2008.

    “We can start reducing it by leaving all foreign lands and demobilizing the troops.”

    This, again, is a philosophical argument. If I were making the decisions, I’m not sure I’d precipitously withdraw all of our troops from
    all foreign countries, but if you want to experiment with this, maybe we cut start by withdrawing troops from, and cutting off aid to, the most ungrateful ones.

    “Then we can turn our attention to those cry-babies in government who think they have an inherited right to have a govnerment job with lots of government bennies.”

    If you can identify one, I’ll talk to his supervisor about it. In the agencies I worked for — and I worked for several, because no governmetn job lasts forever — we got rid of unproductive employees with bad attitudes. I’ve worked enough in the private sector to know businesses get people like that too — human nature is the same everywhere.

    PC, do you feel better now that you got this rant off your chest? I could come back at you with a similar rant about the private sector, but I’ll play nice and let that go for now.

  10. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Another reason why only 1 of every 100 workers was a government employee in 1900 is because back then it took half of us to raise food for our population; now we feed a much bigger population with 1% of us, so we can employ more of our people as firefighters, cops, teachers, etc.

  11. 14

    Real American spews:

    RR, thanks for setting PI straight. Or at least trying to. I know it is a thankless, and ultimately pointless endeavor. Kind of like leading a brain dead horse to water.

    Why the hell can’t I vote for you?