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Case Study

Rail traffic impact analysis for proposed crude oil export terminal

rail, tanks

Both Imperium and Westway have existing liquid bulk terminals at Grays Harbor, WA, that they wished to convert and expand to support Crude by Rail export.

The Situation

The Puget Sound and Pacific Railway (PSAP) is a 240 kilometer line, passes through dozens of towns and villages, and connects to the BNSF and UP.  The citizens in the region were concerned that increased train traffic would cause egregious delays at grade crossings, that an oil train derailment would pose an unacceptable risk to the community, and that the railroad company was sufficiently prepared to handle the increased train volumes. The clients’ applications for a Shoreline Development Permit from the State of Washington required an expert report that detailed a scientific assessment of the impact of the proposed new oil trains on the railway infrastructure, highway grade crossings, air quality, and emergency responders.

Approach

Advisian collaborated with PSAP to develop a series of recommended infrastructure improvements to expand railway capacity.  We performed detailed simulations to show which upgrades would be required at each phase of the development to accommodate the increased rail volumes without increasing congestion at highway grade crossings. We analyzed all 128 grade crossings and calculated the appropriate level of signal protection required to support future train volumes.  Our Advisian expert on hazardous materials transport worked with first responders to quantify current capabilities and suggest new equipment and training required to achieve state-of-the art preparedness. We used a national derailment database to calibrate a forecast of the likelihood and severity of train derailments in the future, given the specific conditions in the study corridor.

Results

We identified 47 recommended action items to reduce the impact of the new rail traffic.   Our 300 page final report clearly documented our data, calculations, analyses, options considered, and sensitivity analyses ensuring a transparent and rigorous presentation of the study findings and recommendations.

The State of Washington reversed a prior decision and is now requiring a full Environmental & Social Impact Assessment on this project.  Our study was a key input to that analysis and enabled our clients to expedite the application process.

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