New report says rail upgrades for proposed Cherry Point terminal could restrict Bellingham waterfront access

The nonprofit group Communitywise Bellingham has released a report finding the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point would require an increase in rail capacity through Bellingham, including the need for a second track along the city’s waterfront.

The increase could significantly restrict access to parks and business near the water, according to the study.

The organization presented the report during the May 7 Bellingham City Council meeting.

It is the second report released by Communitywise, and part of a series of studies the group is funding to explore potential impacts the terminal could have on the region, if constructed.

According to the nonprofit, the key findings in the new study, titled “Gateway Pacific Terminal’s Rail Impacts on the Bellingham Waterfront,” include:

-Gateway Pacific Terminal will require increasing rail capacity in the current Bow to Ferndale rail bottleneck.

-Construction of a new “siding” (a second track paralleling a section of the main line) along Bellingham’s waterfront is the preferred solution according to Washington State Department of Transportation documents.

-The new waterfront siding would significantly affect access to parks, recreation areas and businesses and would necessitate permanent closure of vehicle access to Boulevard Park.

-Gateway Pacific Terminal train traffic will impact future passenger rail and local business uses.

“What we find discouraging is that the GPT need for this siding threatens the parks and waterfront access our community has worked so hard to attain in order to “connect Bellingham with the Bay,” Jack Delay of Communitywise Bellingham said in a press release. “Since this new siding is necessary for GPT to open, we believe it should have been included in GPT’s permit application—and this clearly raises the question: Who will pay?”

Communitywise leaders say the need for new siding came as a surprise during research, as this component of the project is not found in documents from officials connected to the Gateway terminal project or the Burlington North Santa Fe LLC railroad.

The group also commissioned a review by the national transportation consulting firm Transit Safety Management.

The firm’s report, titled “Potential Local Direct Effects of Increased Coal Train traffic on BNSF Railway through Bellingham,” verified Communitywise’s findings.

All reports, maps and relevant information are online at

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