Englewood residents want concessions in rail yard expansion

Englewood residents want concessions in rail yard expansion

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Some South Side residents are asking Mayor Emanuel to guarantee that the major expansion of a rail yard doesn't produce new environmental headaches for their neighborhood.

The Norfolk Southern Expansion covers a 20-block area stretching from Garfield on the north end south to 60th. 

Delores Quinn's home is one of the few remaining homes in an Englewood neighborhood that will soon be part of an expanded Norfolk Southern rail yard.

"The home has so many memories for me, because not only was my grandmother there, but her grandmother," Quinn says.

The existing rail yard is expanding to the south and the rail company has been negotiating with homeowners like Quinn to sacrifice their residential space.

"They made an offer of $20,000," Quinn says

The biggest deal of all involves the city. Mayor Emanuel has asked the city council to approve the sale of a 105 vacant lots to the railroad for $1.1 million. Residents and environmental attorneys met on Tuesday and suggested there should be some strings attached.

"We want to keep hammering away at reducing diesel exposure to homeowners," John Paul Jones of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives says. "And of course the soot that comes from the railroads when they come past our homes. We got to stop that."

"We're talking about an area where we already know that there is a high incidence of lead poisoning and asthma among the children," Nancy Loeb of Northwestern Environmental Law Clinic says. "Our concern is that this will significantly add to that."

Environmental attorneys say the city needs to step up on health issues because traditional protections for residents don't apply.

"There are very few options when a railroad is expanding, and that's because of federal law and federal law governs all railroad expansions," says Environmental Law and Policy Center's Faith Bugel.

The mayor's office says the project promises 300 new jobs. Norfolk Southern says they've been meeting with nearby residents, and they'll continue to listen to their concerns.

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