Apparently backpedaling from her administration’s strong support of a CSX intermodal terminal in Morrell Park, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake today said that “everything is on the table” regarding the facility and its location.
The mayor explained that her advocacy for the terminal has always been aimed at improving the Port of Baltimore – not at “shoving any intermodal facility down the throats of, forcing that issue, in Morrell Park.”
Asked at her Wednesday press conference if the terminal could be located elsewhere, she repeated without elaboration, “Everything is on the table.”
Before the railroad settled on Morrell Park, at least three other sites were examined at Mount Winans, Locust Point and Curtis Bay.
The plan to build the $90 million facility in southwest Baltimore has sparked strong community opposition after CSX disclosed the large number of trucks and shipping containers expected to be handled at the yard from mega-ships using the expanded Panama Canal.
Invited to Baltimore
The plans were developed after Rawlings-Blake wrote a letter in April 2012 to Michael J. Ward, president of CSX (and a native of Baltimore), urging him to locate the terminal in the city following citizen opposition in Howard County – and offering to help the railroad.
During her visit to Panama last week with Vice President Joe Biden, the mayor caused a stir when she and the vice president called The Baltimore Sun to express their enthusiastic support for port expansion and the necessity of a new intermodal terminal.
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Today the mayor said her statement was misconstrued to imply that she was in favor of the facility’s location at Morrell Park.
“My conversation about the intermodal facility was an acknowledgment that it’s a necessary component to a complete port, not that the vice-president or me was to come to Morrell Park and say, ‘You better get it together. We’re putting it there whether you like it or not.’
“That’s absolutely not the case,” she continued. “It’s just an acknowledgment that it’s needed.”
Not Planning to Meet Residents
Asked if she would accept the community’s invitation to come to their next neighborhood meeting and hear their concerns about traffic, noise, pollution and lower property values stemming from the project, the mayor said:
“Number one, I have very competent reps that are at the meeting. Number two, when the miscommunication or the misrepresentation of my comments are made clear, it becomes less relevant for me to be there. They need to work it out at the table with CSX and with the agencies.”
The mayor placed blame for community opposition on CSX, saying Morrell Park residents have had no cause for complaints with her administration, but “were very unhappy with the reps that CSX sent [to the community].”
City Councilman Edward Reisinger, a normally staunch ally of the mayor who represents southwest Baltimore, says his position has “evolved” and he is now opposed to the facility and would work to block zoning changes that CSX needs to move the project forward.
James T. Smith Jr., secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, told The Brew last month that his agency was “very aware” of citizen opposition to the terminal. Like the mayor, he called on CSX to take steps to repair its “poor relations with the community.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley has pledged $30 million in state transportation funds to help CSX build a new intermodal terminal in Baltimore.