Residents who have been out of their homes since their Charles Village street collapsed in April will be allowed to return this week, city officials said Sunday.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will contact residents today to schedule appointments to connect and test gas lines in each of the homes on the first block of East 26th Street, city transportation director William Johnson said.
Water and sewer lines are installed, Johnson said, and the city expects to have the utilities up and running by Wednesday, allowing people to return to their homes as early as Thursday. All residents are expected to be back home by Saturday, Johnson said, two days short of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's 40-day timeline.
State Del. Maggie McIntosh, who represents Charles Village, said she has talked to constituents who have been living with family members and will be relieved to finally return to their own houses.
"It's been a hardship for everybody — for some more than others," McIntosh said. "The sooner they can get back into their homes, the better."
Speaking at a Sunday press conference a block from the site, city officials still would not say whether CSX would help pay the more than $18.5 million in restoration costs for the April 30 landslide that spilled eight vehicles into a parallel cut for train tracks below. In the past, the city and the railroad have shared the cost of repairs where their properties meet.
"They have been working with us cooperatively to facilitate the construction, reviewing designs, as we're in the process and we're still working through those issues with them," Johnson said.
While some have attributed the landslide to an unseasonably cold winter and flooding from the deluge that proceeded it, the cause has not been officially determined. Officials said Sunday they did not know when a final report would be released. Rawlings-Blake said she's been meeting weekly with the displaced residents and focusing on their needs.
"Anyone who had any loss as a result of the collapse, I greenlighted expedited claims almost immediately," Rawlings-Blake said. "So there's no change in that from when I made that initial determination. Whatever your claim is, bring it to us, we'll pay it, and we'll sort out the split on who's responsible later."
Moving the residents home is a "milestone in this process," Johnson said. Construction for long-term restoration could keep the block between St. Paul and Charles streets closed for months, but the city is finishing with the "emergency phase of the response," he said.
"We're hoping to get some resolution on some of the cost-related issues before we get too far into the major construction for permanent restoration," he said.
Rawlings-Blake said the city is in no rush to figure out how much, if any, of the costs CSX will foot. City and railroad officials have met weekly since the collapse.
"It is understandably a long process," Rawlings-Blake said. "We're talking about property lines that were drawn over a hundred years ago. For me, the most important thing was to make sure that while we settled that issue, the residents were not put in jeopardy. We fast-tracked all of their claims, so they could move back into the property, and we have time to resolve that."
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