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Mayor irate over rail yard expansion plan

ALEXANDRIA – A transportation company’s plans to expand operations at a rail yard in Alexandria, Va., have triggered a firestorm of opposition.

Mayor Bill Euille claims Norfolk Southern has been doing an end run around the city by petitioning the state for the necessary permits and leaving city officials in the dark.

The company is working to gain permission from the Department of Environmental Quality to more than double the amount of ethanol transferred from trains to tanker trucks at the site. Currently, the material moves off the railroad through 14 rail cars. The expansion would increase that number to 30.

Some say that doubling the volume would also double the risks involved for residents.

“If there’s an air quality issue, that is going to double,” says Don Buch of the Cameron Station Civic Association.

“There are a lot of people who get woken up from the movement of rail cars. Now you face the potential that you’re going to have twice as much trouble sleeping.”

Euille says the manner in which his office learned of the plans is “unacceptable,” and he is willing to support a resolution opposing the expansion.

“Alexandria has longstanding concerns about the operations at this facility, and is strongly opposed to any increased operations,” he says in a statement.

City Manager Rashad M. Young is asking for public hearings on the matter.

Residents who live near the rail yard have joined city officials in voicing concerns about safety, noise and pollution. The yard is near an elementary school, townhouses and a Metro station.

The Washington Post reports a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern says the company is simply exploring its options.

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