For Release: August 29, 2014
Contact: Natalie Skidmore, 202.657.1911, Twitter @DCSafeRail, Facebook.com/DCSafeRail
CSX Project in Baltimore Killed by Local Opposition
DCSafeRail Calls on DC Council to Halt CSX Expansion
Pending Objective and Comprehensive Review
Grassroots opposition has killed a major rail cargo facility long-sought by CSX in Baltimore. Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith said the project collapsed because the community opposition was heard by the elected officials. ”It just wasn’t getting the kind of traction in the community it needed,” he said. “The political will of elected officials usually doesn’t collapse of its own initiative, it usually collapses because the community revolts and says it just doesn’t want it. And we were in that position. And rather than simply spin our wheels and get nowhere, we thought, ‘OK, let’s look at something else.’”
Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake voiced her support for the decision: “I made clear from the start [that] I wanted a project that was compatible with the neighboring community. While I support the continued strength of industry at the Port, it can’t be at the expense of our residents and local businesses.”
Maryland announced on August 28 that it terminated an agreement with CSX and pulled all state funding for that project until at least FY 2020, withdrawing previously-committed support of about $32 million. Maryland took this step even though Maryland, unlike DC’s monument core, is not a mere pass-through for CSX freight.
DCSafeRail member Maureen Cohen Harrington has emailed the DC Council and other officials hailing the Maryland decision, pointing out the parallels between the Baltimore and DC controversies, and highlighting how it affects the decision-making in the District. As in DC, the Maryland CSX plan “would have severely disrupted a local community and endangered the health and safety of… residents.” Without the now-killed Baltimore facility, freight in-and-to the Port of Baltimore will not be double-stacked, thereby removing one of the reasons CSX gave for tunnel expansion in the District — and the need to rush the decision. Moreover this “further supports the need for a Supplemental EIS, which should also examine whether CSX even has a purpose and need for the VAT expansion at this point.”
DCSafeRail looks forward to a full discussion of all of these questions at the continuation of the August 26 Council hearing. Chairman Mendelson announced the continuance after having received shifting answers from CSX and non-answers from DDOT. The Chairman said that he will ask for higher-level DDOT officials to attend round 2, to provide answers and accountability.