Howard County Times
Howard County

Elkridge residents want CSX rail transfer facility ruled out

Elkridge residents are turning to lawmakers from Howard County for help fighting the potential placement of a CSX rail transfer facility in their community, arguing that lower costs should not be the only factor considered.

The site in Elkridge is the cheapest of four potential locations, and the only one estimated to stay within the original $150 million cost estimate — which CSX and the state had agreed to split equally. But Elkridge residents say the project would devastate the property values of the 353 homes that lie within a quarter-mile of the facility.

Howard Johnson, Greater Elkridge Community Association president, and Drew Roth, another member of the group, spoke before the Howard County delegation in Annapolis last week, asking for help to lobby against the Elkridge/Hanover site. The state and railroad say they need the proposed intermodal terminal, expected to open in 2015, to transfer cargo between trains and trucks.

"The impact [on] these residences is not mitigable" because noise and light from vehicles will harm residents' quality of life, Roth said.

"Make it clear it doesn't have to be there," he told the delegation members. "I see no reason why the … site should be considered at all."

He said he believed a site in Jessup site would be a better option because fewer homes would be affected.

CSX has estimated the cost of the Jessup site as the highest of the four potential locations, at $300 million to $325 million, while the Elkridge/Hanover site is expected to run $140 million to $165 million. A Beltsville site was estimated at $175 million to $200 million, and a site in the Montevideo Road area off U.S. 1 at $200 million to $225 million.

CSX said it needs a site south of Baltimore, along its Camden Line, where trucks can bring containers to be stacked two-high on trains and sent inland without having to go through the Howard Street Tunnel. The tunnel, which runs through downtown Baltimore, is too small to allow double-stacking and has been a limitation for the port of Baltimore.

State Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a West Friendship Republican, asked Roth whether CSX had provided information about the widely varying costs at the four locations.

Roth and Johnson said they have not been able to get more information from CSX on how costs for each site were determined and that CSX has not provided them with any raw data.

Delegation members also asked a member of County Executive Ken Ulman's staff whether the administration had received information on costs beyond the estimates for each site.

David Nitkin, director of policy and legislative affairs, said the administration has requested information on costs but had not received anything.

A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation referred questions about cost estimates to CSX.

When asked about how the costs were calculated, CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan emailed a statement.

"Since the last series of public meetings, CSX and MDOT have been carefully evaluating the functional, environmental and community considerations of developing an intermodal facility to address the state's growing freight transportation needs and the Port of Baltimore expansion. We look forward to engaging the public further as this process continues," he said.

While Kittleman said he sympathized with the Elkridge residences, he said he wanted more information before making a decision.

Del. James Malone, a Democrat, said he is "adamantly opposed" and that he would continue working to keep the intermodal site out of Elkridge, which he represents.

CSX and the state estimate that the transfer cargo site will generate more than $18 billion in direct and indirect economic activity and 6,700 jobs over 30 years.