Coalition: Areas affected by rail consolidation must also benefit
Posted on 06/02/2014
More than 200 workers should be trained and ready for jobs created by railroad consolidation, members of a Springfield coalition said Monday.
The Faith Coalition for the Common Good also expects to announce later this month the appointment of an ombudsman to aid residents dislocated by long-term plans to move Third Street train traffic to the 10th Street corridor.
Work on the first major piece, construction of a Carpenter Street underpass between Ninth and 11th streets, is scheduled to begin next month.
“There are many families or homes that will be affected,” coalition president T. Ray McJunkens said after a news conference at the Lincoln Depot. “Not only that, the key thing is the job situation, and getting the people to understand it’s not about walking in off the street. You have to prepare yourself.”
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, joined the news conference to sign a community benefits agreement intended to assure areas affected by rail construction also benefit from the jobs and economic development.
In the case of Springfield, much of that effect will fall on the east side.
Faith coalition member Irma Wallace said the initial goal was to train at least 100 workers for rail construction jobs through partnerships with local labor unions and Lincoln Land Community College. The figure, she said, quickly grew.
“We want to make sure they have the skills, all the preparation that they need,” said Wallace, “the background, the testing, everything they need.”
The community agreement also includes commitments for use of minority and female contractors, creation of green space, safety and noise-reduction improvements, and representation of minorities and low-income residents on rail advisory committees.
Construction of the Carpenter Street underpass is expected to cost $20.6 million and take two years. Consolidation of Union Pacific freight and Amtrak passenger trains on 10th Street is expected to cost $315 million and take at least a decade.
Manar said the long-term nature of the project highlights the need for the community agreement now.
“We have to make sure the things included in here will be set in motion,” said Manar. “This project will without a doubt transform the city of Springfield.”