Hundreds turn out to protest proposed train rerouting

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 11:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 11:40 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS – In Mid-City and Hollygrove, signs that say "We Won't Be Railroaded" are popping up on yards.

It’s the message neighbors have for officials about the proposal to move freight traffic out of Old Metairie and into Hollygrove and Mid-City.

Hundreds of neighbors packed a public meeting at Lafayette School on Thursday night to learn more and ask questions.

There’s been a push to move rail traffic out of Jefferson Parish for decades.

Now, officials are considering two options. The Back Belt option would keep the trains where they are, while raising tracks and lowering roadways at key crossings. The Middle Belt option would reroute trains to expanded tracks in Hollygrove and Mid-City.

“The freight train would be my front yard,” said Mid-City resident Doris Lumpkin. “Hazardous materials and potential for derailment and stuff. I would have to consider moving and potentially selling my home.”

“Trains would be rerouted from a higher income, predominantly white neighborhood to a lower income, predominantly black neighborhood,” said Earl Williams, chair of the Coalition United Against the Middle Belt. “It sends a really poor message.”

Transportation officials say their goal is to ease traffic congestion and improve the railroad. They're in the early stages of studying both options and say public comment is an important part of the process.

“We have a long way to go before we even get to the process where all of the decision makers, it's not just DOTD, there are many folks involved who will make a decision and present that to the federal railroads,” said Rodney Mallett, DOTD spokesman.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry said for too long, Jefferson Parish has guided the conversation, and it’s time for that to change.

“This can't happen if New Orleans says it's not going to happen,” said Guidry.

Guidry also read a statement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the meeting, in which he opposed a “significant shift of rail traffic.”

So far, over 1,000 people have signed a petition against the rerouting.

Officials plan to make a final decision by summer 2015.

If you would like to learn more about the proposals, here.

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