Vice President Joe Biden has visited several ports recently, apparently without even once addressing environmental health, air pollution, or environmental justice. Residents near the new proposed CSX railyard near Baltimore have had enough, and have invited Biden and the mayor of Baltimore to visit them and their community on December 16.
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.