Letters to the Editors for April 3, 2012

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Coal train dangers are exaggerated

It is really disturbing when you have an organization like the Sierra Club go through many of our smaller communities taking advantage of its members spreading such flagrant misinformation only to serve their own purpose. They are a California organization pretending to be from here.

As I read the articles published in our local paper, I wonder where in the world anyone came up with the number of 84,000 tons of coal dust coming through our community. The outdated information they have been selling our community about the hazards of dust from trains is wrong. The trains are sprayed at the coal facilities with a sealant.

If their medical information was correct, I would be dead by now as I roll these trains up and close daily for years (sorry not a hint of black lung from my doctor). I have young children going to Washougal schools. If I thought I was putting my children’s health in jeopardy it would not be worth the paycheck.

I hear about emissions from the trains, but BNSF reports that its customers avoided 30 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2011 by shipping their freight by rail instead of moving their products entirely by road and new technology is increasing yearly. As to saving resources to move a ton of freight 500 miles by rail takes, on average, a single gallon of diesel.

If your car is idling waiting for a train, turn your car off for the 2 minutes it takes for the train to go by, or you have several other options as the east end has an overpass and 15th street has an overpass.

The employees running these trains through several communities have standards in place to not block crossings. Washougal is one of those communities that going east, if we don’t have the proper block we stop short of the Camas depot. We make contact with our dispatcher to make sure we can proceed through Camas/Washougal without stopping. Going west we stop at west Washougal until we have lights all the way through. So no matter the traffic very little will change. There is only single main traffic with no other sidings between Washougal and Vancouver.

As I work out here I am able to do simple math. The idea of getting 70 to 100 trains a day through here is questionable. Forty is capacity, so if 30 coal trains come through not much of anything else will run — that will not happen.

What is not understood as well is that the UP has a line or two to bring in coal trains. Canada is a route, BNSF has three routes for train traffic from Spokane to the Ports.

Many of the jobs created at Peavey, Kalama, Vancouver and Longview could come from our community. What our community needs is a chance to have better paying jobs to support Camas/Washougal. If we bring in businesses but don’t have a community able to buy their services, growth will be hard to come by.

I hope we can make better informed decisions on this debate instead of trying to rule out of fear.

The SP&S railroad was built in 1908 and has been running ever since. It is one of the main routes to the west and an important part of Washington state’s economic engine.

Robert Hill, Washougal

Road cyclists need to be cautious

I had to write in regarding this issue especially with decent weather around the corner. I am utterly amazed that road bicyclists choose to ride along the Washougal River Road and many other of the roads in this county. I’m not only pointing this out for your own benefit, but I can’t count the numerous times that I have put my family’s life in danger because of your poor choice of a place to ride.

Here I am driving a vehicle on a road that goes up to 45 mph and I come around a corner to find you hanging over in my lane and a car coming at me in the oncoming lane. What to do? Hit you? Hit the oncoming car? No, hit the brakes and hope that no one rear-ends me coming around the corner. Ridiculous!

Sure, I understand that you like your exercise/hobby, but really, can you choose roads with wider shoulders or bike lanes in them? I know you supposedly have the same rights as cars, but unfortunately you are not the size of a car nor can you reach the speed that a car can.

When there are roads that do not have passing lanes on them for extensive lengths, much less a bike lane or a decent shoulder and I need to stay behind you (or even come to a complete stop) because you are going 20 to 25 on a 50 mph road (SR-500 back roads), how is that fair?

Please, when you take off for a ride, think about others (and yourself for that matter). You may think you are on a shoulder, but I can guarantee that if I didn’t move over from my lane, you may be seriously hurt or not here at all.

Angela Hancock, Washougal