Southwest Birmingham residents concerned about proposed CSX elevated rail line

Signs protesting the CSX rail line in southwest Birmingham Saturday, June 15, 2013. (

Some Southwest Birmingham residents and other concerned citizens are hoping to derail CSX Transportation's plans to add an elevated rail line through a 12 mile stretch.

The group, Citizens for Better Schools and Sustainable Communities, says the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District rejected the CSX Magella Project last year.. but it's back on Monday's agenda.

The Birmingham City council voted in favor of CSX building the elevated rail line in January. Councilman Johnathan Austin says it could go up in the next year or two.

Saturday, residents in the Cooper Green Housing Authority Complex and from other neighborhoods signed a petition to keep this proposal from going up in their area.

People in the Cooper Green Housing Authority Complex.. are worried about how a proposed elevated rail line would affect their health and safety.

Jessica Calhoun.. now one of more than 100 signatures on a petition against it. "For something to be above my head, that is very unsafe. I do not want that to happen at all."

Mildred Allen says "It's going to be a horrible thing for all of us."

"This is a bad proposal for the city." Ronald Jackson says the CSX Magella Project would get rid of a dozen units in this newly renovated public housing community. He's also concerned about public safety and environmental justice. "CSX is an unsafe company and environmental hazard. The EPA has documented that CSX and other railroads chose poor, African American and Latino Communities to run their rail lines. It's a legacy of American rail racism."

Birmingham Councilman Johnathan Austin says the decision was made in the best interest of the city. "What we have to do is do our best to work in unison with them to come up with the best solution which is to have minimal input on our communities, but have maximum investment into our communities. I think we've been able to strike that balance."

But Gwen Calhoun, President of the Grasselli Community wants the public to have a say in the matter before anything goes up. "We don't want our housing values to go down. We don't want our neighborhood turned into a ghost town."

Jackson says his organization will take legal action if the rail line happens. Housing Authority Chairman Raymond Brooks does not want to comment on the issue until after Monday's meeting.

CSX also sent a statement saying it's hopeful the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District will respond favorably to the proposal, which we believes addresses their concerns and provides benefit to the residents of Cooper Green. CSX has agreed to pay fair market value purchase price for the easement and stands by its original good faith offer of 650,000 for community improvements"