Murky in Morrell Park: CSX plan and mayoral stance on rail facility


Baltimore Brew
Fern Shen
December 17, 2013

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, together with other elected officials and a spokesman for St. Agnes Hospital, assured a packed crowd in Morrell Park last night that they would join the southwest community in opposing an intermodal rail facility.

The city, state and CSX officials who had so confidently presented the rail plan in the same room back in September – drawing howls from a surly crowd – barely put a team on the field this time around.

There appeared to be no representative from CSX Transportation in the room and, for the city, there was only a Baltimore Development Corp. official (who didn’t speak) and Colin Tarbert, deputy director for economic and neighborhood development for the mayor.

So where was Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – publicly invited to the meeting by Morrell Park residents after she and Vice President Joe Biden touted the intermodal facility during a trip to Panama last month?

She was watching the Ravens game at a Harbor East eatery (Townhouse Kitchen + Bar) as part of a Democratic National Committee fundraiser where, as The Brew first reported, she was to be the headliner.

“I didn’t really expect her to come,” said one of the residents leading the charge against the 24-hour, 30 to 40 trucks-per-hour rail facility, recalling the raucous, emotionally-charged September meeting. “She’s not that crazy.”


As for residents, opposition remains strong and unanimous, judging by crowd sentiment at the meeting in the American Legion Hall on Desoto Road.

“Don’t get railroaded: stop CSX,” read a sign posted outside the building. Similar signs have appeared across the community in recent weeks.

“Morrell Park feels it is entirely too big of a facility to put in a residential community,” said resident Laurie Weishorn, who ran the meeting, which drew more than 150 people.

Rebecca Morley, of the Center for Healthy Housing, reviewed the results of the Columbia, MD-based group’s study of the impact of the facility on residents. The degree to which the community’s health is already measurably worse than that of Baltimore City as a whole, Morley said, is “astonishing.”

She reviewed the statistics showing higher rates of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, along with missed school days and additional deaths due to pollution and apologized to the crowd: “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”

Several residents complained that CSX “is not a good neighbor,” saying that noisy rail activity has dramatically increased this year.

“The trains coupling now sound like earthquakes,” said Laura Hayes.

She and her husband, Shawn, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, have lived in the community for 20 years, she said, speaking to The Brew. She said since CSX knocked the trees between her home and the tracks, the noise has been deafening.

“What can we do to fight this?” Hayes said. “My upstairs is cracking. There used to be trees. We cannot sleep.”

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