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Coal Train Traffic Could Increase Through Missoula

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MISSOULA -

A new coal export terminal in Washington could mean a big bump in the number of trains rolling through Missoula, leading to potential environmental and quality of life issues in the city.

City Council members are requesting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers include Missoula in their environmental impact statement for the new coal terminal.

Millennium Bulk Terminals aims to turn that terminal into a world-class facility, which will ultimately churn out 48 million tons of coal.

City Councilman Jason Wiener represents Ward 1 of Missoula, which includes the Rattlesnake area and the north side -- where residents are no stranger to train traffic.

"I get, you know, a number of calls every month about noise from either the crossing or the rail yard itself," Wiener said.

And now, the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, Washington could increase the number of coal trains moving through Missoula year-round.

In addition to noise and air pollution, Wiener said one of only two access points to the Rattlesnake Valley at Madison Street would be blocked by increased train traffic, which is used by more than 6,000 commuters every day.

If Missoula was included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' EIS, Wiener said the impacts would at least be quantified.

Wiener said, "So, it would one give us an idea of how many of these trains might be coming through -- we've never gotten a clear idea of that."

Currently, Wiener said alternate train track crossing routes for pedestrians and vehicles would require taxpayer dollars.

However, if an impact study did reveal adverse impacts to Missoula, Wiener said the railroad or coal company may help pay for mitigation.

"What we want to make sure happens is that the people who are along the rail line don't end up with you know, a degraded quality of life, so that somebody else can make a buck," Wiener said.

Wiener said designating "quiet zones" -- where trains can't blow there whistles -- are another option, if more train traffic is on its way.

Officials said right now, the environmental impact study is in the public comment phase.

Missoula City Council members will vote on a resolution requesting the city be included in the study on Monday.

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