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NS hub to have berms near school

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Preliminary designs of Norfolk Southern's $112-million Alabama cargo-loading rail hub call for 15-foot berms next to McAdory Elementary School and a 16-foot sound wall along the access road behind the Sadler Ridge subdivision, the Birmingham News reports. The design will be shown at a public meeting Norfolk Southern is holding at the Bessemer Civic Center. Some residents of the area and parent of students at the school are vehemently opposed to the project.

The detailed plans — which
railroad officials said are subject to revision — show that the 316-acre
facility will be developed in two phases. The first phase calls for two loading
tracks and three storage tracks and as many as 1,154 trailer and container
parking spaces. The second will add one loading track and one storage track,
plus 336 trailer and container parking spaces.

That would give the Birmingham
Regional Intermodal Facility, as it’s called, a total of three loading tracks,
four storage tracks and up to 1,490 trailer and container parking spaces. The
design calls for six crane-ways where the 47-foot cranes will travel to load
containers from truck trailers onto the trains, or vice versa.

More 15-foot landscaped
berms are planned on the north end of the property near Sadler Ridge and other

The design also shows the
distances the hub will be from various locations:

• The northeastern corner
of the McAdory Elementary School cafeteria will be 488 feet from the nearest
concrete pad where the containers will be stored, including a 15-foot landscaped
berm in between. The same corner of the school is more than one mile from the
entrance to the facility off McAshan Drive.

• At its closest point to
Eastern Valley Road the hub is 1,013 feet behind an existing ridge that will
get landscaping.

• The entrance road is
within 340 feet of a barn on the back side of one of the homes in Sadler Ridge.
The road is 553 feet from the home on that same property.

The plans also call for an
administration building, a maintenance building and a pair of buildings for
mechanical and transportation uses. There is an employee parking lot with 166
spaces, the design shows. Entrances and exits will be monitored by security

It’s difficult to tell what
the new details will mean to most residents of the growing McCalla community.

Many residents continue to
be concerned about the effect diesel emissions will have on the school, and
most opponents remain unconvinced that the landscaped berm will do enough to
block out noise. Declining property values, increased traffic on McAshan Drive
and an overall decline in quality of life are other issues raised by those who
oppose the project.

The railroad company has
purchased or has options to purchase the property for the project. Because the
project falls under federal statutes, it doesn’t have to obtain local zoning
changes. It must, however, get environmental and other permits to build the

Rudy Husband, Norfolk
Southern spokesman, said adjustments already have been made to the facility’s
design and more could follow after feedback from the public.

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