Mayor hints that CSX railyard in Morrell Park could be moved elsewhere

Says she has no intention of shoving the proposed railyard "down the throats" of southwest community

csx morrell park

CSX wants to turn its underutlized railyard in Morrell Park into an around-the-clock intermodal facility.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

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.

Small community in the path of rail project with big political momentum (9/20/13)

CSX railyard opponents invite Biden and mayor to Morrell Park (11/20/13)

Last night Amtrak and Baltimore escaped a potential disaster (11/19/13)
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.

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  • Antero Pietila

    At this rate Panama Canal 2.0 will be launched long before Baltimore gets it act together. The intermodal terminal is just a stopgap measure. But no one wants to touch the expensive hornest nest of inadequate tunnels downtown that cannot handle double-stacked containers and therefore require this intermodal.
    As Mark Reutter recently reported, the tunnel crisis is on the horizon. It’s just a matter of time.

  • Eric

    It is great to hear about politicians who consider the real impacts of intermodal rail and truck yards, and act accordingly. Kudos to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake!

    Diesel Exhaust causes cancer and other diseases, and many who live or work near sites or roadways that generate a lot of diesel exhaust will suffer and die prematurely.

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    • ZacharyMurray

      Yet Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her boy Marty are going to pay a huge corporation that abandoned Baltimore, millions to expose citizens to dangerous emissions.

    • GXWalsh

      If diesel emissions cause cancer, that’s a shame. It’s one of my favorite smells…it smells like things are getting done. Either a tug boat pushing a ship, a train carrying people home for the holidays, or a big rig carrying Utz potato chips. Heck, I’ve always assumed Santa’s sleigh was diesel and the reindeer were just there for show.

  • bmorepanic

    I’d like Liars for $100, Alex.

  • Nacho Belvedere

    The problem with all the proposed sites is that they are all on the wrong side of the harbor. The loading of of the trains should occur AT THE TERMINAL.

    Maybe if President-In-Waiting O’Malley hadn’t promised all the transportation money to his ICC and Red Line cronies, the money would be there to build a new freight rail tunnel. Instead, he promises peanuts and they “study” the tunnel for another 20 years. I bet they’ll find the money to do it when all the container traffic starts going to New York and Norfolk…

  • Lizzie 58

    The CSX intermodal facility is proving to be a thorn in the future ambitions of our Mayor, Governor and Lt. Governor. Good job, Morrell Park. The Mayor, BDC, the City DOT, the City Planning Department, the Governor, MDOT, and MPA thought of you as nothing more than white working class people from the hill country. They thought that you would be grateful. You just taught a bunch of Democratic elected officials a new chapter in community organization. First rule– don’t do to white working class people that which you would not do to affluent white people.

  • macnac

    This so odd. The Mayor is usually very loyal. Did CSX miss a payment to her campaign fund?

  • Matthew Riesner

    If Panama, a country with a GDP of $15,000 per capita can afford to expand the canal, we can afford to expand our rail infrastructure (including the tunnels) to allow for train cars to be double stacked at the port.

  • burgersub

    my big pie-in-the-sky idea is to run freight trains through the harbor tunnel. it gets only half the traffic the fort mchenry tunnel does and would be a pretty direct link between port facilities on both sides of the harbor. unfortunately its current clearance is only 14 feet, which is less than a double-stacked train, but i found at least one site on the web that says the full diameter of each tube is 40 feet so they could probably be accommodated with some internal modifications without having to replace the tubes themselves. this would address many issues at once, a) not having to move freight from ship to truck to train b) not having the danger of running potentially hazardous freight underground through dense residential and commercial parts of the city and c) freeing up large portions of the belt line for passenger rail service. too bad it’ll never happen though, too many people around here go bananas at the prospect of removing lanes of automobile traffic ever.

    • Gerald Neily

      The grades are too steep.

      • Matthew Riesner

        I think it’s a great idea…one of the best in a while…If the grade is too steep couldn’t they run something like a cog-rail engine?

        • burgersub

          well the whole point of doing something like this over the intermodal facility is to avoid having to switch between specialized equipment. how about this though: i found something that says the maximum grade of the tunnel is 3.5%, and something else that says that freight trains are capable of doing up to 3%. the approaches to either side of the tunnel are elevated above ground level because they have to go over things such as…railroad tracks! obviously converting the tunnel to rail use would not require this anymore so the approaches could be re-done. i’m assuming that the approaches would be the steepest portions, perhaps this alone would be enough to get the grade down to a manageable number?

          • Matthew Riesner

            If CSX did an electric cog rail, then you would only have to change out the engines, not restack the cars. As I would image this would require a much simpler facility, than the proposed inter-modal, to switch out engines on the southern end of the tunnel.

          • burgersub

            well, as long as the whole process didn’t take longer than the circuitous route through the city the trains currently have to take…

            this would surely be much much cheaper than constructing an entirely new tunnel, whether underwater or on land. another added benefit i thought of is that the rest of the 895 thruway could be demolished and developed. greektown could be reconnected, etc. how do we make this happen? does anybody important read these comment threads? even if they do, this article is weeks old by this point so nobody will ever see it but us nerds.

          • Matthew Riesner

            Why don’t we use the tunnel for both rail and vehicular traffic by using one side as a two way city street, linking both sides of the harbor from the Canton/Greektown area to the Brooklyn/Curtis Bay area. I feel that would create continuity between the two sides of town. I have called the offices of Senators Cardin and Mikulski and Rep. Cummings about this idea already (since it is a federal highway)

          • Gerald Neily

            Right, Matthew. If this idea works at all, one tube should be big enough for two tracks. The tubes themselves are plenty steep in order to get down below the shipping channel in the middle of the harbor, so regrading the approaches beyond either end of the tunnel would not be enough to flatten it out. Another advantage of cog-power: It would be electrified instead of diesel, saving a bundle on tunnel ventilation. (Not that I actually really know anything about this stuff.)

          • burgersub

            two-way traffic in a tight tunnel with no shoulder space (and probably with a significantly reduced speed limit for safety reasons) probably wouldn’t appeal that much to people, i would think!

            also, interstates aren’t federally owned, administered, or maintained, they just get some federal funding. the state of maryland (the maryland transportation authority in the case of 895) owns the tunnel. that’s not to say that people in the federal government might not be interested in the issue though.

          • Gerald Neily

            Right – it’s run by the toll authority (so-called MdTA) as a part of MDOT. They often run two-way traffic through a single tube, whenever they’re doing maintenance/rehab or there’s an accident. It’s no big deal.

        • Gerald Neily

          No, I know of no study. The cog-rail engine sounds cool to me.

      • burgersub

        oh, is this an idea that was already explored in the past? alas.

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