Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GPT: EIS Scoping Comment No. 10

Waterfront Redevelopment

For several years, the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham have been planning a very ambitious -and expensive- Redevelopment of the former G-P industrial property and adjacent areas on the Waterfront which contain various levels of contamination deemed potentially harmful if they are left un-remediated.

Both the Port and City have committed significant resources toward the Waterfront Redevelopment effort, which holds remarkable promise in creating a very desirable area to enable building new businesses, institutions, residences and recreation areas for wide public use.

To enable this, millions of public dollars will need to be spent on clean-up, infrastructure and reliable waterfront access, with significant funds already spent or committed to this effort.

Upon completion, likely to require 20 years or more, this new 'neighborhood', adjacent to the existing downtown, is expected to accommodate businesses providing between 2500 and 4800 new jobs and over 2000 new dwelling units to house future growth.

Additionally, this venture is intended to make the Waterfront 'Bellingham's Front Door' by providing a clean, accessible, waterfront area designed to sustainably attract businesses, tourists and area residents interested in shopping, recreating and generally enjoying a great gathering space for multiple activities.

Converting this former, uninviting industrial area into a very desirable spot requires not only years of hard work, vision and funding, but insuring against unanticipated changes in events likely to be detrimental to it, like more than doubling the rail traffic that separates the Waterfront from the downtown and residential areas.

It is hard to imagine an unanticipated event that could be more harmful to the goals of a successful Waterfront Redevelopment than the sudden addition of 18 unit coal trains per day, each 1.5 miles long, blocking necessary road crossings, blaring high decibel noise and spewing diesel fumes and dust into the air.

What tourist, shopper, business owner or resident would consciously wish for such a round-the-clock nuisance?
Certainly no one that I know!

Even if grade-separated crossings were possible, they would likely be prohibitively expensive and take years to build, since there are more than a dozen of these, alone, within Bellingham's City Limits.
An average cost per bridge might approach $10 million, providing sufficient space is available and could be acquired.

That is a very large burden to impose upon any municipality and ought not to be allowed, particularly for selfish and arbitrary reasons.
Even with substantial mitigation, providing that is possible, the imposition of 18 additional very long trains per day, is a hurdle that threatens the very viability of the entire Waterfront Redevelopment Project.
That is simply unacceptable!