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Washington transportation commission cites proposed rail terminal's safety implications

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recently sent a letter to developers of the proposed Grays Harbor Rail Terminal (GHRT) expressing rail safety concerns about the bulk liquids rail logistics facility that would be located at the Port of Grays Harbor in Hoquiam.

To be developed by U.S. Development Group L.L.C. subsidiary Grays Harbor Rail Terminal L.L.C., the facility would accommodate an average of 45,000 barrels per day of liquid bulk materials for export, primarily crude oil or light oil. Rail service would be provided by the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad, which interchanges with BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad.
The UTC recommends that the project's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) require comprehensive track and safety evaluations, and that appropriate upgrades be implemented prior to any operation of trains hauling crude oil.
"In the UTC’s view, the EIS should evaluate the potential impact of the GHRT on the safety of the public on and around all railroad lines and crossings that would be used to deliver crude oil to the facility," UTC officials wrote in the letter. "Currently, up to six trains per day serve the Port of Grays Harbor. Increasing the train traffic could potentially require upgrades to the rail infrastructure, including upgrading track, new crossings, or new or expanded sidings or upgrades to existing crossings."

The letter references three derailments that occurred in a 16-day period earlier this year along the rail line between Centralia and the port. The frequency of the derailments is a significant concern, and the commission recommends that the EIS require comprehensive track and safety evaluations, along with appropriate updates, before train operations begin, UTC officials wrote. The EIS also should evaluate and offer mitigation strategies for blocked crossings along the line between Centralia and the GHRT, they believe.
In addition, the UTC recommends the EIS include an in-depth analysis of all crossings between Centralia and Hoquiam to determine if any require additional warning or supplemental safety devices, device modifications, or closures or grade separations.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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