Two different issues in this project, two very real concerns. One area is zoned industrial and has always been industrial. One area is residential and has never been zoned industrial.
I am at a crossroads regarding this debate because I am a southeast Sioux Falls resident. I am pro Downtown, always have been, always will be. But I also live less than a mile from the proposed Canton line siding alternative. Full disclosure - I am one of those southeast Sioux Falls residents that question why this siding alternative is proposed for a residential area instead of an industrial area. I question why the southeast and east side of Sioux Falls must be sacrificed for this project.
The primary component of the Rail Relocation Project is the relocation of the downtown main switching yard farther east, along Rice Street. But a smaller switching area would be needed to allow railroad crews to move the engine from one end of the train to the other. This switching area is referred to as a "siding alternative."The Canton siding alternative is new to this project and this location was just introduced last year because the Falls Park alternative is not considered viable. The Canton siding alternative proposal impacts a zoned residential area. Railroad switching activities should not be located in zoned residential areas. What happened to the proposed siding alternatives in the northeast part of Sioux Falls? What happened to a possible location for a new siding along the existing Corson Subdivision mainline south of downtown.
This project has languished for so long that options seem to be getting financially out of reach. The Feds are threatening to take back the authorization of funds. It looks like the taxpayers will have to pony up additional money to help pay for this project. As a result, residential areas are proposed to be sacrificed to make this project work. Whose fault is this? It is the city's fault for not moving this project forward when the federal earmark was first given to the city back in 2006.
Why did the first environmental assessment get rejected? The intent of the EA is to provide a full
and fair discussion of environmental impacts of the Project and to inform decision makers and the public of the reasonable alternatives that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment. When you keep changing or adding new locations, or when you can't come to an agreement on where the main switching line should be and where the siding alternative should be, an environmental assessment will never get done.
Public hearings were held in 2006, 2007 and 2008 after the federal earmark was approved. No presentations were made to the City Council on this project until November 2010. Give credit to Mayor Huether for attempting to finally move this project forward since he was elected in May 2010. Five presentations have been made to the City Council since November 2010 regarding this project. Yesterday was the first public hearing on this project since 2008.
It's just too bad that this administration wants to sacrifice the entire eastside corridor to do it. It is just too bad this administration wants to put a flurry of train activity in the heart of residential southeast Sioux Falls. It's just too bad that the Canton siding alternative will create a stanglehold on various high volume traffic intersections in east Sioux Falls. It's just too bad that the money needs associated with this big project are growing leaps and bounds and the promise of federal money is not even a sure thing anymore. The rush to keep the federal money while sacrificing the east and southeast residents of Sioux Falls is a poor solution.
Where indeed shall we put those railroad tracks? The chant - not in my neighborhood - seems to be growing every day. It will continue to grow when you choose to sacrifice zoned residential instead of choosing zoned industrial land for this project.