CSX railyard opponents invite Biden and mayor to Morrell Park

Residents say Rawlings-Blake has never come to the community to inspect the proposed rail terminal and listen to their concerns.

csx morrell park

The September meeting in Morrell Park about the railyard was standing-room-only.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Saying that a proposed rail facility will harm their southwest community, residents of Morrell Park are holding a December 16 community meeting and have invited two of the project’s biggest backers – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and now Vice President Joe Biden – to attend.

“We recognize the importance of the facility for the port, but it does not belong in a residential neighborhood,” said Patti Michel, who has lived on Spence Street for 11 years.

“The facility will operate for 24 hours per day, seven days per week, with no buffer between the facility and peoples’ homes or our schools,” Michel said in an email to The Brew today.

“We believe that the noise, light, air pollution and traffic from the facility will harm our community, and CSX has not offered any solutions to our concerns.”

City, state and CSX officials have said the railyard is needed to take advantage of the expanded capacity of the Panama Canal. But residents have said the project – already rejected by several suburban jurisdictions – is too large-scale and disruptive to be shoehorned into their small community.

An estimated 30 to 40 trucks per hour will pass through the “intermodal facility,” designed for the transfer of shipping containers going to and from the port.

Shifting Political Landscape

The mayor’s support of the railyard – and her high-level public relations help from Biden – emerged this week during a trip by Rawlings-Blake and other mayors, at the vice president’s invitation, to tour the expanded canal.

Biden’s comments were a blow to the residents whose frustration with CSX and suspicion toward elected officials erupted in September at a highly-charged community meeting.

Since then, the opponents have collected nearly 1,000 signatures and gotten the support of 20 other neighborhoods. City Councilman Ed Reisinger has reportedly said his position has “evolved” and that he will reject zoning changes that CSX needs to move ahead with the project.

In the meantime, residents like Laurie Weishorn are directing their anger elsewhere in City Hall.

Weishorn took Rawlings-Blake to task for her comments (phoned in from Panama) touting the $90 million project.

“I find her comments most upsetting. [She] has not taken any time out to come and speak directly with the residents, [but] she, of course, had time for a trip to Panama at the taxpayers’ expense,” Weishorn said in an email.

“At what point is the mayor going to come to my home and see what they are proposing to dump 100 feet from my backyard,” Weishorn said. She complained that CSX has not answered any of the community’s long list of questions that were submitted months ago.

CSX did respond to a request by The Brew to respond to this story. Here is the statement sent by spokeswoman Melanie Cost:

“CSX agrees with the sentiments expressed by both Vice President Biden and Mayor Rawlings-Blake about the many benefits that enhanced intermodal service can provide to help ensure that the Port of Baltimore remains competitive once the expansion of the Panama Canal is complete. We remain committed to partnering in the growth of the Port and look forward to a continued dialogue with federal, state and local officials about how to accomplish this.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Dec. 16 at American Legion Post 137, 1508 Desoto Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 7.

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  • ushanellore

    There you go. I knew this was coming and I am glad it has come. CSX basically told the community to go climb a tall tree or jump off a cliff. What CSX wants CSX gets because CSX is a job creator. The Democratic Party pays lip service to the environment and speaks through both sides of its mouth. All the pollution this project will cause and the environmental degradation will not deter the Democratic Party from creating jobs. Panama Canal expands and Baltimore jumps like a dog to a bone. This is a Pavlovian reaction and SRB is prone to it. When business calls she jumps. I wonder if the Panamanian President plans to start a lobbying firm in America.

    We shall have a grand dame of a port, big, fat and bloated with ships no matter that the residents nearby are kept awake all night long with the passage of trucks and trains. From the CSX–we love you Baltimore. From SRB–We love you CSX. From the Panamanian President–we love you SRB. From Biden–I love you Morrell Park, but I can’t attend your meeting. Gay Paree calls. Chow!

    • Tom Gregory

      Too funny!

  • Gerald Neily

    Has anyone ever explained why the Maryland Port Administration didn’t just put this big new Panama-approved container rig on the WEST side of the harbor (e.g. Locust Point, Masonville) instead of Sea Girt?

    • Bmore_Al

      It has to do with the depth of the shipping channel at Sea Girt vs the west side port.

  • Fr. Greg Cundiff

    I feel for the residents, but it would be nice to have some well paying union jobs in the city.

    • Carol Ott

      According to the person I spoke to at CSX, there will be no new jobs in Morrell Park — they’ll just be moving people from one terminal to the other.

      • Fr. Greg Cundiff

        Well that adds a new shade to it.

        • Carol Ott

          Yeah, I’m not entirely sure if that info was meant to be public or not, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard that, so I figured it was okay to post it.

          Just for the record, I was originally in favor of this — for the reason you mentioned above — the jobs. I live not far from Morrell Park, and the lack of decent blue-collar jobs in Baltimore is a constant source of ire for me, as not everyone is suited to (or wants to) work in tech or healthcare — the two industries we seem to focus on when having the “jobs, jobs, jobs” conversations on any official level. Bringing back solid-wage manufacturing and shipping could alleviate a lot of the poverty in our city, and this could have been a good opportunity for that.

          Alas, it was just not meant to be…and I’m certainly not going to support something that wouldn’t benefit the community in any way.

  • Lizzie 58

    I respect the Vice President, but he has has been poorly advised on this issue. When Joe Biden stops caring about working class neighborhoods against big business, then maybe there is really no reason for the Democratic Party to exist anymore. FDR must be rolling over in his grave. Did it occur to Joe Biden to tell CSX and MPA that mitigating the impact of an intermodal facility would take significant money from them and that compromise with communities was important.

    As for the Mayor, let’s hope Councilman Reisinger stands firm. We should have chaos in the Council if any Council member forces a colleague to take a zoning change in their district against their wishes and the wishes of their constituents.

    Father Greg: CSX and MPA told the Morrell Park community that they will only be transferring existing jobs from SeaGirt to the Intermodal facility– no new jobs. They have offered Morrell Park, and frankly the City, nothing for doing this.

  • Sean Tully

    Has anyone said why CSX can’t stack the containers onto trains right at Seagirt? They have tracks that lead right out of the city from there without having to go through the tunnel. I am missing something but I am not sure what.

    • Gerald Neily

      There are tracks without tunnels leading east from Sea Girt but not west. Norfolk Southern uses them up to the Susquehanna River, then north and west through Pennsylvania.

      • Sean Tully

        Well, then why not at least load the trains heading to all points north from Seagirt? That would at least lessen the number of trucks heading to Morrell Park? (When they say 300 trucks a day, that really translates to 600 when you consider the empties have to make the return trip.)

    • ushanellore

      But that will not bring about the photo ops that go with creating a shiny new port and the appearance of creating new jobs.

    • Bmore_Al

      The double stack containers won’t fit through the Howard St. tunnel.

  • Sean Tully

    Another issue that needs to be brought up (and I’ll bring up at the meeting if no one else does) is that they are planning new Senior housing (or “grandparent housing” at the former Cardinal Gibbons site. How does the city feel about dropping old folks into the middle of what will become an area fouled by exhaust fumes? Is anyone thinking of the big picture here?

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