Last month, people who live in that little corner of heaven that could be disrupted by the train movement of a proposed railroad relocation siding option got a flyer from Alfred Benesch & Company located in Lincoln, Nebraska. The company is the city's consultant on the railroad relocation project.
Although I live less than a half a mile from the 57th Street Bridge, I did not get a flyer. You have to live really close to the options to get personal mailings about this project. That's stipulated in an ordinance. But I digress. The question was asked of me, why are we getting this material? It would seem the city is still moving forward with the siding options for southeast Sioux Falls.
My response was the city is obligated to provide public information regarding the project and no decision has been yet. Hence, the flyer. The people in the Southeast District are still uneasy and wondering what the City Council is going to do about the options affecting the tranquility of their residential area and their property values.
What is in dispute is the amount of train traffic that will be generated by the two siding options in the residential area identified by the city and its consultants. Although city officials said last month that there would only be one additional train per week, BNSF officials say that number is incorrect. An April 12th ARGUS LEADER article quoted BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth saying she doesn't know how many trains, but that it was "certainly more than one train a week, and that traffic will grow."
The article goes on to state the growth in the state agriculture sector is a major reason for more trains.
Brian Aker, a city resident who lives directly in the area identified as the siding option for southeastern Sioux Falls wrote a letter to the Editor in the April 14th edition of the ARGUS LEADER. Here is the letter to the editor:
When will the mayor and council inform all the people affected by the rail relocation? The mayor and city engineers told residents that only one train per week would need to use a proposed south-side railroad sidling. Sources within BNSF are now estimating that 27 trains per week will need to use the south-side turnaround if the rail yard is relocated.
That’s right, if the southeastern rail siding option is approved, 27 trains per week will need to pass south through the southeastern side of the city to “re-orientate” on the new siding then travel back north through the city to reach Brandon. Nine street crossings are between the Falls and the new proposed siding location. This makes 23 streets per train will be blocked by the 2-mile long “super trains” in order for them to reach their destination in Brandon. The city has made no mention of this new information to all of the folks on the east side of the city. To add insult to injury, the city will need the residents to cough up more than $30 million on top of the $36 million in federal money for this “railroading.”
Think that you are going to get an overpass at your most-used crossing? Not a chance; overpasses are at the least $6 million a piece, and none are planned within the current proposal. Have you experienced the traffic at 26th and Southeastern when a train passes through? Now you will have that joy up to 54 more times a week.
When will the mayor be honest and tell all the folks what this small piece of land will really cost in the end to the east-side residents? You better love watching the trains go by and hearing the whistle, folks, because we are going to get a lot more of it.
Brian Akers also wrote a letter to the mayor and city councilors regarding this issue, speaking specifically about the new elevator going up near Lyons, SD and the impact that elevator will have on train activity to Sioux Falls. Here is the link to the article published in the November 2011 issue of Tristate Neighbor. Isn't it interesting that increased train traffic to Sioux Falls was being talked about back last year yet city officials were still talking about the minimal increase in train traffic at the public meetings.
There are two options being considered: the area between the 57th and 69th Street bridges and the area further south between 69th and 85th Streets. Neither option is palatable because of the increased train traffic through central and southern Sioux Falls. Southeast District Councilor Sue Aguilar stated in the April 12th ARGUS LEADER article: "What you're doing is doubling the train traffic through the Southeast and Central Districts," Aguilar said. "I don't feel that is an acceptable plan." Besides Councilor Aguilar, Councilors Anderson, Jamison and Erpenbach all say that the option to build a siding in southeastern Sioux Falls is a non-starter.
Add to those 4 councilors, councilor-elect Staggers who has also stated non support for that option. In addition, when asked about the council approving additional money for the project over and above the $36 million federal earmark, Staggers has said he would oppose using even "one dime" of city taxpayer money on the project.
Chug-A-Lug, Clickety Clack. The siding options proposed by the city are not good for the southeast and central districts of Sioux Falls and thank goodness there are city councilors who think these options are a non-starter for this project. These Councilors must stand their ground on this issue and vote a resounding NO if this option comes before them.