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Construction starts on Cargill rail yard project in Cedar Rapids neighborhood

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 11:36 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The neighbor that a group of people in Cedar Rapids has been fighting for years to keep out is finally moving in.

Cargill started construction Monday on a new rail yard in the Prairie Park neighborhood on the city’s southeast side, which is also known as the Rompot neighborhood.

The rail yard’s development has been actively contested by many of the people who live in the area, who have addressed the city council, held walks to show off the area where the rail yard is planned to try to convince people that it shouldn’t happen, and even sued.

State Sen. Rob Hogg, who lives in the neighborhood, said this week’s work to dig up a prairie pollinator zone to prepare for the rail yard’s construction is “just really tragic.”

“Twelve tracks, 200 cars — this is a big operation — and it’s really destroying the nature of this area and the character of the neighborhood,” Hogg said.

According to Cargill, construction crews will be working six days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on the site.

But Hogg and other neighbors argue the project should not have been allowed to proceed in the first place.

“We challenged that in court. The district court ruled that the city doesn’t have to follow its land use plans,” Hogg said. “So that means if they can do it to us in our neighborhood, they can do it to you in your neighborhood.”

In a statement sent to KCRG-TV9, the manager of Cargill’s corn milling facility in Cedar Rapids, Dan Pulis, said, “Rail service and this project are critical to the operation of our facility and our ability to continue to service our food and agriculture customers for years to come.”

Pulis said Cargill will continue to meet with neighbors as the project gets underway, as it had prior to construction starting, continuing, “In addition to selling a farm parcel on Otis Road to the City of Cedar Rapids for $1, we will be providing over $100,000 to the City for planting and maintaining this property as a pollinator habitat. We are also setting aside 11 acres of the Stewart Road property as an easement that will be planted with pollinators. The two combined pollinator properties increases the pollinator habitat in the area by 25 percent. We are also replacing trees removed during construction with more than 270 native trees and bushes.”

Cargill has also pledged that the project’s design will mitigate the effect the rail yard has on neighbors, including light and noise reduction.

Even as work gets going in his neighborhood, Hogg is holding out hope they won’t finish the job.

“My faith in the effectiveness of that is starting to go away a bit, but we can still have a miracle,” Hogg said. “We need Iowa Supreme Court to stand up and say, ‘Cities just can’t ignore their plans.’”

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