New Orleans Freight Train Rerouting Opposed by Community Group

Source: MidCity Messenger (with video)

Note: For more information, see the We Won’t Be Railroaded website

Freight trains through Hollygrove and Mid-City denounced at Katrina commemoration breakfast

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Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)
As New Orleans continues to recover from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina nine years ago, the city should be unified in its opposition to a plan to reroute trains from Old Metairie through Hollygrove and Mid-City, retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore and local allies said Saturday morning.
Honore’s famously barked orders of “weapons down!” after his assignment to New Orleans in the days after the levees broke symbolized a turning point for the city. Since his retirement from the army, however, Honore has turned his attention to environmental-justice issues around his home state of Louisiana, and he offered updates on those efforts Saturday morning at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration breakfast.
“We think people have a God-given right to clean air,” Honore said.
Among the speakers were Rev. Earl Williams of the Coalition United Against the Middle Belt. A Hollygrove resident, he was shocked to find out last October about the proposal to re-route freight trains from Old Metairie into Hollygrove, bringing cancer-causing emissions into the neighborhood, he said.
Old Metairie Road suffers from traffic backlogs caused by the train crossings, so a proposal known as the “Middle Belt” would move the tracks into New Orleans instead. As New Orleanians learned more about the plan, they discovered that it actually also affected Mid-City, as well as the Shrewsbury community in Jefferson Parish, Williams said.
Author and activist John Barry speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)
Author and activist John Barry speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)
The latest meeting held on the subject drew 350 people, Williams said, and has now begun to attract the attention of New Orleans city officials, including City Councilwoman Susan Guidry and Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Guidry has been consistent in challenging misinformation about the proposal, Williams said.
Meanwhile, elevated train crossings would solve most of the traffic problem in Old Metairie, Williams said.
“The question we have to ask as citizens of New Orleans — not just Hollygrove, not just Mid-City — is are we going to allow a problem of an area that was built along the railroads to be exported to our community?” Williams concludes. “I think the answer is a resounding no.”
Only one elected official spoke at Saturday’s ceremony, District C City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who said she will support the efforts to oppose the Middle Belt plan.
Saturday’s event included discussion of a number of other issues, including the proposed re-routing of trains from Old Metairie through Hollygrove and Mid-City, the air pollution in nearby St. Rose, and efforts to hold oil companies accountable for their contributions to decades of coastal wetlands loss. Rising Tideauthor John Barry — who was ousted from his leadership post with the flood authority after it sued the oil and gas companies over destruction of Louisiana’s wetlands — described all of the efforts so far as steps toward changing the history of the state.
“I’m a historian professionally. I can tell you that history doesn’t just happen. People make history,” Barry said. “The real history of this legislative session is going to be made by you in this room, going forward into the future.”
The Rev. Earl Williams speaks against a railroad through Hollygrove at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

The Rev. Earl Williams speaks against a railroad through Hollygrove at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)