WENATCHEE — With the expectation of longer trains — and longer train delays in the city — in the near future, Wenatchee is stepping up its efforts to move a BNSF Railway terminal out of town.
The City Council on Thursday told staff to work with the rail company and to look for grant money to move the terminal from its location near the intersection of Thurston and Columbia streets to the Appleyard switchyard, south of Wenatchee.
Moving the terminal could cost $8 million, said Steve King, the city’s director of community and economic development.
He said trains stop at the terminal several times a day for crew changes and refueling, blocking traffic on Orondo Avenue and Ninth Street.
The train stops add up to about an hour and a half of traffic blocks at day.
King said that while the average delay is seven minutes, one delay was as long as an hour.
He said he met with a BNSF representative last month and learned that the company was planning to have longer trains — up to 10,000 feet — which would stretch from the terminal all the way to the Miller Street train crossing.
King said that if the terminal is moved to the Appleyard, then a train that long would extend to Thurston Street. There are no road crossings in that span of tracks.
He told the council that moving the terminal would also free up 2.4 acres, where the terminal currently sits, for possible redevelopment near the waterfront. And there are a number of side tracks that would no longer be needed that could be removed and used for something else. An example he gave was removing the extra tracks behind the Convention Center to create additional parking.
King said the rail company typically does not pay for such relocation projects. So the city would have to find the money for it.
If the city can find some funds, BNSF would likely be motivated to move, he said.
“Their facilities are old and they don’t like the bad publicity of blocking tracks,” King said. “And it’s not safe.”
The city last approached the railroad about moving the terminal in 2007, but railroad officials remain open to the idea.
“We are willing to discuss the matter and will await an official request for a meeting with the city,“ Gus Melonas, BNSF spokesman said this morning.
King said that traditional government funding likely would not pay for the work. But he said that because of the new coal trains that will be coming, there may be new funding sources. There may also be environmental clean-up money because of the ground contamination on the site.
He said there may also be economic redevelopment grants available.
Councilwoman Karen Rutherford said longer and more trains coming through the city are good for the community.
“You just want them in the right place,” she added.