RAILROAD RUMBLE: Closure Angers Neighbors
A proposal is drawing criticism involving a main road through the east side of Des Moines.
Union Pacific Railroad wants city leaders to close the Hull Avenue railroad crossing between Dixon and East 24th streets cutting off cars.
Council members took up the measure for the second time Monday night. East siders werem’t mincing their words.
“It sucks!” cried Suzy Forkner who lives near Hull Avenue on Des Moines’ East Side.
“We feel like we’re becoming a sacrifice zone,” added neighbor, Cheri Mortice.
They say the crossings might be an eyesore and a pain for Union Pacific, but they connect them to schools and jobs and the city is writing them off in favor of big railroad business.
“The only time this city cares about the east side is when the Fair is going on,” Forkner said. ”The Fair is over; they’re done with the east side.”
With the Hull crossing closed, neighbors would be forced to use Euclid or Guthrie Avenues – a hassle they don’t want.
“What we want is an overpass with a sidewalk where people can cross back and forth safely,” said another neighbor, addressing the Des Moines City Council in its chambers during the Monday afternoon meeting.
An overpass is considered too expensive, but the plan has added sidewalks and turn lanes and enlarged intersections in areas likely affected by the closed crossings. Many neighbors aren’t impressed.
“These improvements,” Mortice chided, “it’s a little bit of cement overlay here, maybe a block of sidewalk here, and then maybe a few trees. And then they’re gonna build a barricade. That’s not a 21st century win-win solution.”
Councilman Chris Coleman argued that the closings will make rail traffic more efficient and add potential jobs connected to it. He said he hears the complaints and takes them seriously.
“I understand that the people who live directly east or west of this closure carry the burden for an improvement that will benefit the vast number of citizens in the area, and we regret that.”
Regrettable or not, the plan moved forward with a 5-2 vote, and seems likely to gain final approval September 23rd.