Rail Traffic

Coal-TrainsAn additional 40-60 trains is far beyond the current capacity of the Laurel-Missoula line. Capacity could be increased only with significant upgrades.

– Coal is not the only reason freight rail volume is expected to increase in the area. Other factors are population growth, increased consumption, truck driver shortages and rising diesel costs.

Railroads are committed to managing train traffic to minimize crossing delays. With proper management, the railroads are confident that crossing delays can be minimized, in a worst-case scenario, to a total average of 8-9 minutes.

MRL and BSNF work closely with state and local emergency response personnel to ensure awareness of crossing delays.

All upgrades to Montana railroads are paid for by the shippers and their clients - not taxpayers.

Coal trains will not make it logistically impossible to add the modest amount of additional passenger rail capacity that has been envisioned for Montana. All over the world, there are rail corridors far more crowded than these and ways are found to successfully accommodate both freight and passenger traffic to meet local and regional needs.

If just 10% of long-haul freight now being moved by truck moved by rail instead, national fuel savings would exceed one billion gallons a year and annual greenhouse gas emissions would drop by more than 12 million tons. That’s equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road or planting 280 million trees.



Trains carrying coal have been traveling through Montana for decades; and a study conducted by the Missoula Health Department did not find a significant or measurable percentage of coal dust around Missoula’s railroad tracks. The study concluded that 95% of the dust analyzed would still be there even if there were no coal trains. The Northwest Clean Air Agency and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency have no record of coal dust complaints or related health or environmental hazards.

Railroads were the first to recognize that coal dust was an issue at the loading origin, posing a serious threat to the stability of the track structure and to the operational integrity of rail lines in the Powder River Basin (PRB). Railcars properly loaded at origin effectively address coal dust.

BNSF issued a new operating rule that requires PRB coal shippers to implement measures that will reduce coal dust by 85 percent or more. These include aerodynamic shaping and application of a sealant spray that creates a crust on the coal.

Freight rail is by far the most environmentally responsible overland transport available. A single train can move 1 ton of freight 500 miles on a single gallon of fuel.

Studies have proven that dust is virtually eliminated at locations beyond the mines loading area with the use of topping agents.

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