Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility

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The Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility (BRIMF) is a cargo hub owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway at 7100 Crescent Way in McCalla. The 316-acre site adjoins the Jefferson Metropolitan Industrial Park near McAdory Elementary School. The project was announced in December 2009, and provoked some opposition from neighbors. Construction started in Spring 2011, and the facility began operating in October 2012.

The $97.5 million facility accommodates the loading of shipping containers from flatbed trucks onto railcars. It is part of the railroad's overall plan to develop the Crescent Corridor from Louisiana to New Jersey. It is projected that the facility will have an overall economic impact of $4 billion for the region by the time upgrades to that corridor are complete in 2020. Railroad officials project that the corridor's development could create as many as 600 direct jobs — although initially it will employ only about 200 — and as many as 8,000 additional indirect jobs in the area.

Norfolk Southern purchased the property from six owners for a total of nearly $12 million. Preliminary design plans for the project were released in August 2009 showing sound-control walls, landscaped berms and other buffers to control the impact of the hub's operations on neighboring sites. The first phase of operations provides space for as many as 1,154 containers on three storage tracks and two loading tracks. A second phase will add a loading track, a storage track and 336 additional storage spaces. The road entrance is located on the opposite end of the site from McAdory Elementary, over a mile away. The nearest paved storage areas to the school are shown 488 feet away from the school building with a 15-foot bern and two fences between them. An existing ridge north of Eastern Valley Road will be maintained as a buffer along the length of the site.

In December 2009 Norfolk Southern joined the U.S. Green Building Council. In their announcement they pledged to seek LEED certification for their intermodal terminals under construction in Birmingham, Memphis, Tennessee and Greencastle, Pennsylvania. In February 2010 the railroad announced that the project had been awarded a $52.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery ("TIGER") Program.

Bidding for the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility began in February 2011. Ground was broken on June 6, 2011. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman attended the ceremony. The facility was formally opened on October 17, 2012.

Controversy

In 2009 as the project site was being announced, a group of McCalla residents calling themselves "No Hub 4 McCalla" began meeting in opposition. The group, led by residents of the Sadler Ridge subdivision, claims that the county's master plan indicates non-industrial uses for the property and objects that the project would produce traffic congestion, create air and noise pollution, and lower property values. Spokesman Larry Argo told the group that they could "expect Eastern Valley Road and U. S. Highway 11 to look like Tarrant City."1. The railroad's land use is governed by federal law and is therefore not subject to county planning decisions.

In July the McAdory Elementery School PTA voted unanimously for a resolution asking the railroad to find another site to protect schoolchildren from the possible dangers of diesel fumes. Governor Bob Riley has expressed support for the project and confidence that Norfolk-Southern can satisfy the concerns of neighbors. That process was advanced by a detailed letter to Jefferson County Schools superintendent Phil Hammonds from Norfolk Southern executive Cary Booth which explained the steps the railroad would take to protect McAdory students and other neighbors from traffic, noise, runoff and emissions.

A public meeting at the Bessemer Civic Center on August 18 was attended by 400 residents, of which perhaps a fourth were sporting matching t-shirts and surgical masks indicating their membership in the "No Hub 4 McCalla" opposition group. As many as 50 Norfolk-Southern employees and consultants stood at different stations with information about specific concerns. A court reporter recorded questions from the public.

The Jefferson County Board of Education approved a resolution to commission independent reports on traffic and environmental impacts of the proposed project before voting to support or oppose its construction. When meetings resumed in November a group of supporters had emerged calling themselves "McCallaCan". Both groups attended public presentations by the Alabama Department of Transportation, Norfolk-Southern, and the Birmingham Business Alliance.

Notes

  1. Tomberlin - July 8, 2009

References

External links