The Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis has recommended that environmental mitigation be completed before constructing a 43.2-mile track through central Utah to connect Union Pacific’s mainline to a coal transfer facility.
As proposed, the new track would fill 12.3 acres of wetlands, and the agency, in its Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement
, has proposed three alternatives that would lessen the project’s environmental impact to a little more than 3 acres or 2 acres, depending on the option chosen.
The rail is intended to serve Southern Utah Fuel Company’s coal-mining operations, working as the major transport avenue for the company’s bulk commodities.
In the report, the agency found that the new rail would take 750 trucks off local roads each day in four Utah cities. As an example of the truck traffic, the STB reported that trucks travel through downtown Salina, Utah, once per minute.
Among the negative impacts of the action include a loss of 108 trucking jobs, but the agency found that these will be made up through rail jobs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the two wildlife habitats nearby the construction site would not be impacted by the project. Thirty-three historic properties are near the project site, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing a proposal to solve this issue.
The benefits, though, outweigh these negative impacts.
“The potential overall benefits from the reduction of truck traffic include improved safety, reduced traffic delay, reduced noise, reduced air emissions, reduced roadway maintenance costs, and longer pavement life,” the agency wrote in its report.