NEW ORLEANS – Carruth Lumber has been a family owned business for nearly 60 years. But now, Donald Carruth and his family fear the Mid-City business could be wiped out if officials decide to expand train traffic in the area.
“By the maps I've seen, the tracks go straight through my business, just destroys it,” said Carruth. “We were just shocked.”
It's all part of a plan to improve rail traffic in New Orleans. One of several options railroad planners are studying involves rerouting trains that currently run through Old Metairie to a set of Amtrak rails that run along Airline Drive and the Earhart Expressway, through the Hollygrove and Mid-City neighborhoods.
“The number of freight trains they’re talking about going down these tracks on a daily basis, day in and day out, is unacceptable,” said Susan Guidry, New Orleans City Council District A. “They need to go back to the drawing board on this.”
Dozens of freight trains will run through these residential neighborhoods if the idea goes through, said Guidry. That means tracks would have to be expanded, possibly wiping out a neighborhood playing field on St. Patrick Street, as well as several homes and businesses.
Guidry has met with the Department of Transportation and Development, the Regional Planning Commission and the mayor’s office on the issue. She believes railroad planners currently favor the option that Hollygrove and Mid-City neighbors are protesting.
Neighbors fear rerouting freight trains through the area would bring down property values and stop progress in an up and coming neighborhood. They also fear many of the freight trains carry hazardous materials, which could endanger the neighborhood in case of a derailment.
That's why dozens of Hollygrove and Mid-City residents signed a petition at a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night in Hollygrove, urging officials to table the option of rerouting train traffic through the area.
“The noise, the danger, the chemicals, the foundation on your homes, it's so many things that would upset the neighborhood as a whole,” said Luella Clark, a longtime Hollygrove resident.
“You're talking about a train that's going to create a lot of noise and hauling all kinds of things, things that are toxic,” said Carruth.
"The project is not to move the train out of Metairie, it is to improve rail traffic through New Orleans and improve safety for the public," said Bambi Hall, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. “There is no proposal to move the rail lines. We are not at the point for any decisions to be made or even proposed.”
While nothing has been decided yet, those like Carruth fear the worst.
“It's scary for us,” said Carruth. “Scary what the future holds.”
DOTD plans to schedule more public meetings in the summer. An environmental assessment is underway and should be complete in early 2015.
DOTD says that's when a officials will make a decision.
Meanwhile, neighbors in Hollygrove have formed a committee to research the issue, and plan to invite public officials to a meeting next month.