Air quality experts raise concerns over Kansas rail hub plan

Environmental pressures are mounting on Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's proposed freight center in Johnson County, Kansas, with experts saying it would contribute to the region's already serious air pollution problems.

Air-quality experts at the Mid-America Regional Council are suggesting that diesel emissions from the massive rail project near Gardner would worsen ozone levels, which already violate federal standards.

MARC is challenging an initial federal conclusion that the only serious pollution issue from the freight hub would be dust kicked up from vehicles using the site.

MARC officials say diesel emissions from the rail yard would increase the level of fine particles of pollution. Smaller pollution particles are considered more hazardous because they can enter the body easier and cause respiratory problems.

The air-quality issues were contained in public comments submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is deciding whether to give the sprawling 418-acre rail hub the environmental clearances the project needs to proceed.

MARC is among several groups that have expressed concern about the environmental effects of the project.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has said that a preliminary environmental report done by the corps shows that ozone-threatening emissions related to the rail yard would decrease substantially in the hub’s first two decades of operation.

The railroad contends the project won’t result in "significant changes to ozone-causing emissions in the greater Kansas City area."

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