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RAILROAD RUCKUS: Closure Concerns Voiced

They showed up en force…knowing exactly what was wrong.

“It dead-ends neighborhoods,” said East Sider, Cherie Mortice.

And exactly what they wanted…but a “Win-Win” situation may be impossible.

“It is about economic development,” said Christine Hensley, “it is about jobs, and we have to make decisions that not everybody’s happy with.”

Union Pacific says rail traffic is on the rise in Des Moines, and three track-filled road crossings need to go.

“The Union Pacific has over 170 jobs in the Des Moines area,” said a UP representative, “with a payroll of over $12 million.”

Supporters say the railroad supports Des Moines with $3 million in property taxes and there are 3,400 jobs connected to it.

Compare that, they say, to the new Facebook office coming to Altoona.

“They (Facebook) are getting $18 million of state funds,” said Des Moines City Councilman, Chris Coleman, “they’re not going to pay any property taxes for 20 years. They think they’re going to bring 31 jobs.”

Hull Avenue neighbors are hoping for a solution–a viaduct, such as the one that carries nearby Guthrie Avenue over the same set of tracks.

“We could be connected by a 21st century design solution that needs to accommodate trains and trucks and pedestrians and bicyclists because we all use it as a thoroughfare,” said Mortice.

On the council, they have support from Skip Moore and Brian Meyer.

“When we do these patchwork solutions like what is proposed here,” Meyer said, “trains are only going to get longer, delays are going to be longer.”

But a viaduct would cost about $16 million and Hull Avenue sees less than a quarter of the traffic Guthrie does.

Neighbors want the railroad to buck up.

“Instead of them holding an axe over our head,” said another east-side man, “let them donate some money, to put the viaducts in!”

Business vs. neighborhoods…new expenses vs. lingering deficits…a tough summer controversy, guaranteed.

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