- Norfolk Southern is seeking to expand its current intermodal rail yard in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago to better handle the shipping uptick brought about by Amazon and other e-commerce retailers, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
- To that end, Norfolk Southern bought approximately 550 lots from Englewood residents and the city of Chicago. However, neighborhood holdouts are enduring eminent domain claims. From a high of 40, the holdouts now number only five.
- The five, all members of the Englewood Railway Coalition, argue that the buy outs are simply a land grab, and contest the right of eminent domain to seize their property.
In Chicago, population density and complex commutes lead to significant time wasted, spent either in traffic waiting for rail passage to complete, or its reverse, as freight trains can spend days waiting for both passenger vehicle traffic and passenger trains to vacate tracks. A tight, highly congested rail route and passenger vehicle infrastructure, built before usage surpassed capacity, reveals the failing infrastructure in one area of a single Midwestern city.
Norfolk Southern's attempts to expand and therefore bypass the usual snarl of 75th Street brings with it not only easier passage, but also neighborhood improvements and jobs. Removing one line from an overcrowded yard can make a significant difference, as an alternative route will potentially allow potential track sharing, meaning more than one line can benefit.
Yet, uprooting long-established residents presents a significant challenge, no matter the benefits. The archetype of aggressive railroads lingers from centuries past, yet the fight against eminent domain has existed at least as long. It's unclear how events will unfold for the remaining residents of Englewood and for Norfolk Southern, but the cost is likely to be high.