During this morning’s tour of the new airport terminal expansion, I asked Port of Bellingham Executive Director Charlie Sheldon if he was concerned about the impact of increased rail traffic on plans to redevelop the port’s waterfront real estate.
His answer? No.
Opponents of SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal project proposed for Cherry Point have argued that the increase in rail traffic through the city would hamper port/city efforts to redevelop the waterfront acres left idle when Georgia-Pacific Corp. phased out its pulp and tissue mill operations, with tissue production stopping at the end of 2007.
While the rail line does run between those waterfront acres and the downtown area, Sheldon noted that traffic can pass over the tracks in the vicinity of Chestnut and Bay streets, and would also pass over the tracks at Cornwall Avenue if the BNSF main line is shifted away from the waterfront as now planned.
As Sheldon sees it, those access points will allow sufficient access to a redeveloped waterfront even if Gateway Pacific adds another 18 trains per day to local rail traffic.
“We spent six years planning this thing to be consistent with an active, main rail line,” Sheldon said.