CSX, city already footing landslide bills, though responsibility remains unclear

Baltimore, MD--May 1, 2014--This is the scene, photographed from the St. Paul Street side, of the aftermath of a landslide which occurred Wednesday on 26th street between St. Paul and Charles Streets. Crews are on the scene removing debris and vehicles from the site. staff photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor

The initial cleanup of a landslide that spilled half a city block onto CSX Transportation tracks in Charles Village last week was paid for by the railroad. The city, meanwhile, issued hotel and grocery vouchers to displaced residents and began processing claims for damaged property, including the eight parked vehicles damaged in the wall collapse.

While Baltimore officials and CSX executives have yet to say who will cover the costs of replacing the century-old retaining wall and returning East 26th Street to livability for residents, both have begun paying bills associated with the sudden infrastructure failure.


"The Administration's bottom line is that regardless who shares ultimate responsibility, we know it's not the residents, so we aren't going to have them be in limbo if we can help it," Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said in an email.

Harris said costs to date aren't available, and Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman, said in an email that the "costs of removing the soil and debris from the rail line are still being tabulated."


Where the property line falls between the city street and the railroad right-of-way and what besides heavy rain might have caused the collapse could be factors in determining responsibility, and officials said they are looking into those issues.

The tracks covered by the collapse Wednesday are part of a vital freight line for container cargo out of the port of Baltimore, and the railroad's intermodal freight facility at Seagirt Marine Terminal was at a "standstill" until the line reopened, officials said.

CSX crews cleared the vehicles, stones, dirt and other debris from the tracks mostly on Thursday, and reopened the line early Friday morning — averting further losses from a third day of stalled freight for the railroad, the port and its customers.

Other costs are mounting.

Residents of 19 evacuated homes along East 26th Street have been told they may not be able to return for up to 40 days as engineers assess the ground under the street with ground-penetrating radar.

Harris said the city does not have a "solid number" for how much the claims payments, vouchers and other services will cost, saying the total will remain a "moving target" until families return home.

He said the city will discuss costs with CSX if it is "determined that CSX is responsible" for the collapse.

"Issues regarding who pays for what can be worked out later," Harris said. "The mayor wants the top priority to be helping those families, which is why she ordered ... that the claims process be expedited and not delayed until an investigation is complete."