Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Coal collapse on the Ohio, part 3

Text and chart © 2016 Jim Ross

About twenty years ago -- give or take a few -- coal truck traffic on U.S. 52 in Wayne County, W.Va., was a significant public safety concern. Overloaded trucks carrying coal from mines in southern West Virginia to docks on the lower eight miles of the Big Sandy River were involved in several accidents, plus they were so numerous that it was rare to drive a few miles on a weekday without encountering one. There were probably trucks in Kentucky supplying docks on that side of the river, but U.S. 23 is a four-lane road with more room for error.

The last few times I was on U.S. 52, there were still coal trucks but not as many. Likewise, when I've been down at the mouth of the Big Sandy, I don't see as many small boats bringing coal to the Ohio for the larger boats to pick up.

The graph explains a lot about that.

A caveat here is that I had to use two different kinds of publications from the Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center to get numbers from 2008 and earlier to compare with 2009 and later. But the chart does reflect the reality that less coal is coming out of the Big Sandy, and that's probably a big reason why less coal is moving through the Greenup and Gallipolis Robert C. Byrd locks nowadays.