Some McCalla residents oppose proposed rail project

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - "Not in my backyard" is what a number of McCalla homeowners are saying about a potential major rail project taking shape.

A group of homeowners is planning to protest the project at Thursday's planning commission meeting, even though nothing has been announced yet.

The group called "No Hub 4 McCalla" says they like the idea of a multi-million dollar railroad hub that could bring thousands of jobs, but they don't like the idea of putting it in their backyards - but they fear that's exactly where the new project may be heading.

Railroad company Norfolk Southern isn't hiding its desire to build a major intermodal facility in Birmingham that it believes would divert transport trailers off the highways and onto new rail lines, with Birmingham being a major hub.

Norfolk Southern spokesperson Rudy Husband told FOX 6 News "we have identified Birmingham as a key part of that because it is ideally located to serve the Gulf Coast as well as to handle traffic from the west coast."

Norfolk Southern officials say such a project would mean billions in economic development dollars, as well as hundreds of direct jobs, and thousands of support jobs attached to the project.

But company officials won't say when or if they will commit to the project, much less where it will be. But McCalla homeowners along this stretch of eastern valley road near McAdory Elementary believe it will be on hundreds of acres of land here.

"I'm not against the railroad, don't get me wrong. I'm against where the railroad wants to put it. Because there are so many unused industrial facilities in the Birmingham area," said Jan Oglesby-Hughes, a McCalla farm owner.

McCalla homeowner Angie Lewis tells FOX 6 News "there could be chemical spills, even terrorism. Then you have all the pollution---light pollution, noise pollution, and it's just an unsavory project for that community."

"We are incredibly sensitive to the impact rail has on the communities we operate through. And whenever we construct these terminals, the impact on the community is a high priority, and we do everything we can to minimize any negative impact," said Husband.

But some homeowners aren't buying it, and have started a protest website that says an official announcement could come as early as next week.

Those McCalla homeowners plan to show up in force at Thursday afternoon's Jefferson County planning commission to voice their concerns. We contacted the governor's office and local economic development officials for their reaction, but both declined comment on our story.