The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

McCalla: NIMBY

I will be objective.

McCalla residents are upset that Norfolk Southern might be planning to build an intermodal facility in their area. nohub4mccalla

Estimates are that the facility could spur job growth to the tune of 8,000 jobs, which are sorely needed in Western Jefferson County where the unemployment rate is approaching 30%.

While no one wants industrial facilities in their backyards, let's look at this objectively.

The facility would be on land near the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park, where there is lots of warehouse space and other sites for development. One might expect an intermodal facility to locate there. And it is close to I-20 with an exit already in place. Here's a GoogleEarth shot. The yellow outline roughly shows the area of interest, between McAshan Drive and McAdory Elementary School, and between the railroad and Eastern Valley Road. Of course the facility would not take all of that space. Between the yellow line and 4th Avenue (Old Tuscaloosa Highway) is mostly land belonging to the Jefferson Metropolitan McCalla Park. I-20 is just northwest of the area. The elementary school is down at the lower southwest part of the area.

What is an intermodal facility anyway? Well, it's not a rail yard, in the traditional sense. Intermodal shipping is generally recognized as the future of shipping, because of its efficiency. Cargo is not handled directly, and security is improved, damages and losses are reduced, freight is transported faster, and pollution is reduced. The facility will move cargo from truck to train and vice versa, and long distance shipping will be done via train rather than truck.

This facility could remove as many as 300,000 trucks (and their fumes) from Alabama's interstates.

Details of Norfolk Southern's plans have not been released, so there is a lot of speculation about what the facility might be. And speculation often uses fear to make its point. The information I have seen contains misleading assertions. But I am sure the railroad people will address those concerns when they meet with the neighborhood. Their spokesperson (Rudy Husband) has said that they reach out to neighborhoods close to their sites. But when, because apparently they haven't yet.

"At the appropriate time, we will meet with concerned residents about the terminal and try to answer all of their questions," he said Tuesday.

"We have participated in public meetings to respond to concerns residents may have about the construction and operation of our intermodal facilities." (at other sites)

Bessemer is desperate for jobs, and things are about to get so bad in the county (when the Jefferson County Commission runs out of money at the end of this month), so its going to be hard to convince the powers that be that this facility should not be built. In fact, some of the people fighting it are already conceding defeat, it seems, citing the power of the railroad and a scheduled announcement, they say, by Governor Riley on July 16 about the project (from their web site).

There are a lot of new businesses in the area that I am sure would like to see 8,000 additional people eating at their fast food restaurants, buying groceries on the way home, purchasing gasoline. And most of those businesses are in Bessemer, so that's tax money for our city.

Throughout history, industrial facilities have been located in poor areas and adjacent to black communities. One only has to look at North Birmingham to realize this. But those residents did not have voices that were heard by decision makers.

The McCalla residents are making their voice heard. There is a Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting tomorrow, Thursday, July 9 at 1:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham (you would think they might meet out here, but no) where this issue will be addressed.

It seems the business community and the leaders of the community are all for this. Economic development and all. Let's see what happens.


Anonymous said...

I think the facility is a great idea and it should be built right next to the new county courthouse in Bessemer. If 480 acres is what they need, they might even buy your house Joe. It would create more jobs for the crooks in the hood, and turn a blighted area into something profitable. I'm just sayin'

Joe said...

Sorry, but this area is too hilly. But I see your are one who likes the idea of putting industry in the poor or black areas. No wonder you sign your name "anonymous".

Anonymous said...

Do you Joe? Is it right to force it on people in a rural/residential area? There are homes all along Eastern Valley Road. Some are very expensive and some are mobile homes. This will truly be in their backyards. Did you see the picture of what an intermodal facility looks like. It is on the nohub4mccalla website. Imagine that next to the elementary school or right behind your home. A shame the area is majority white, or they could scream racism. Sadly there is only one black homeowner, so that won't work. Really Bessemer or maybe Jonesboro is a more viable site. Tear down the empty/burned/in bad repair historic homes and put it there. By the way, I post comments on your blog often, but I am always anonymous. They must be ok when I agree with you.

Joe said...

Anonymous, why are you reluctant to stand behind what you say (with an identity)? And I was objective in post, neither supporting or being against the facility. But I was somewhat pissed that the documents I have received from McCalla leaders were filled with false ideas about the threats from such a facility. But to be fair, I did not list them. As for the picture, its a railyard alright, but I'm not too sure its an intermodal facility. That's why we need to see details of this facility before we pass judgement. I have friends who live in the area and I am sympathetic to their concerns, but unsubstantiated fear does not win me over.

Renee said...

Well, I live in the McCalla community and I am black. I do not want to see this industrial, intermodal facility in my back yard or next to my child's school. The trains that run now are already loud enough but we tolerate it because we like living in a rural, uncongested area. The proposed facility will only further reduce suffering home values and bring noise, air and light pollution to the area. They say it will create hundreds of jobs but I can't see how that many people in the Bessemer and McCalla communities will actually benefit. These facilities are mostly run by computers. The part that really blows my mind is how it can be okay for this to be located so close to an elementary school. It would seem that all the noise would be distracting to the students, not to mention the air pollution. Will it be okay for my little girl to go outside during recess? I know we are in a recession and I want everyone to have a job that needs one but some things are more important than money.

Joe said...

Thanks for your comment.

I just got back from the JC Planning commission meeting. You may have been there as well. Of course, there was no real news since this is a federal thing and local authorities have no say so at all. but here is part of what I learned.

1)The announcement by NS has apparently been moved to tomorrow at 10 AM, but the public is not invited. We might find out how close to the school it will actually be.

2)The best and maybe only way to stop it is through environmental concerns. There are good people working on this, they spoke today.

3)I know that NS is reaching out either today or tomorrow to neighborhood leaders for a meeting. I can't say anything more about that, but its happening.

Again, thanks for your input.