Englewood Rail Yard Expansion Derailed After Ald. Taylor Balks at ‘Disrespect’

A years-long effort by the Norfolk Southern Railway to double the size of its storage yard in Englewood failed to get signal clearance from the Chicago City Council on Wednesday, after Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) blocked a vote on a measure long sought by the railroad.

With the support of the City Council’s Black Caucus, Taylor used a parliamentary procedure on Wednesday to block a vote on an ordinance that would have allowed the railroad to purchase streets and alleys between the railroad’s tracks from Garfield Boulevard south to 59th Street from the city.

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After preventing a vote for five months, Taylor voted earlier this month to advance the measure that Norfolk Southern needs to expand its yard, which has its main entrance at 47th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. The project began in 2014. 

But the alderperson renewed her opposition Wednesday after she said it became clear to her that Norfolk Southern had yet to live up to the promises it made to hire South Side residents after the rail giant bought approximately 500 lots, displacing many longtime residents — most of whom were poor and Black — and prevent air and noise pollution, Taylor said.

“It’s just been a disrespect to me and the community,” Taylor said after the City Council meeting. “Let’s remember, this was the displacement of 400 families in a Black community. And since 2014, they’ve done nothing. It’s dirt.”

Taylor is running for reelection, and faces a rematch against former Chicago Police Officer Jennifer Maddox. Taylor has demanded the railway conduct a study on the long-term health impacts of diesel soot from trains and trucks and to hire more Black contractors and employees, including from Englewood.

The measure could come back to the City Council for a vote as soon as Feb. 1.

But Taylor’s action means additional delays on a project designed to “further Chicago’s role as the heart of our nation’s supply chain,” said Norfolk Southern spokesperson Connor Spielmaker.

“New construction remains on pause, meaning more delays to bid on work by local contractors,” Spielmaker said. “It also means a delay in the good-paying jobs created by Norfolk Southern from the expansion, as well as those with contractors and other Chicago businesses that support the yard’s ongoing operations.”

After the vote was delayed, Mayor Lori Lightfoot backed the measure and defended the railroad’s track record in Englewood.

“You got go into the community, and Norfolk Southern really has to take the lead responsibility for that — and they have been — to make sure that they’re listening to what the concerns of the residents are and coming up with solutions that address those concerns,” Lightfoot said.

More than $3 trillion worth of cargo moves through Chicago each year, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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