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Welcoming back the freight trains

Train whistles and the clickety-clack of freight cars rolling along the tracks were welcome sounds to the ears of many Petalumans last week.

But the resumption of rail deliveries is welcome news for more than just nostalgic reasons.

Local businesses such as Hunt & Behrens, Dairyman's Feed & Supply and Petaluma Poultry are happy because they will realize big savings on their shipping costs. Feed transport costs, which have skyrocketed in recent years, will be reduced to about half of what they are now for truck deliveries by using freight service instead. The savings will also be passed on to customers, helping to benefit local agriculture.

It's been 10 years since Petaluma had rail service, and the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co. will make deliveries in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties. Trains will only run during daylight hours and make one round-trip on the line, three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Local companies are ecstatic to have it back, because in addition to lowering transportation costs, freight service is considered a much greener way to ship goods.

As Arnie Riebli, chairman of the board for Dairyman's Feed & Supply, says, "Every rail car equals at least four trucks. That's four trucks no longer on the road and out of the picture. There's a reduction in the carbon footprint with trains."

Petalumans may experience some momentary traffic backups at the railroad crossings when the trains pass through town, but because the engines won't be pulling a lot of cars and the deliveries are only three times a week, it will be only a minor inconvenience.

Besides, it is a small price to pay for the economic and environmental benefits of having freight trains in town again.


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