I would like to relate my concerns about the recent Patch article, “Us Against Them: NIMBY Fights Get Us Going.”
As a resident of Hanover/Elkridge and someone who supports our community’s efforts to stop MDOT and CSX from building an intermodal freight yard literally in our backyards, I respectfully suggest that there is a serious mismatch of importance and impact between, on the one hand, our battle against a huge, noisy, dirty, polluting railroad freight yard and, on the other hand, a walking path and a water tower. I think I can say with confidence that the residents of Hanover/Elkridge would willingly exchange the intermodal site for both a walking path and a water tower! The idea that these two things are on the same level of threat as a rail yard that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, spewing noxious fumes, invading our homes with towering lights, ruining the quality of our lives with constant noise (from the rumbling of freight trains to the clanging of coupling/decoupling to the incessant beep-beep-beep of mandatory safety alarms, to name a few), is, I am sorry to say, an insult and reduces an existential threat to our community to a mere nuisance.
What we are battling is nothing less than the survival of our entire community. If you think I am exaggerating, I challenge you to investigate what happens to neighborhoods when intermodal freight yards move in. Look at Charleston, SC; McCalla, AL; Chicago; or Austell and Fairburn, GA, and then tell us that an intermodal freight yard is nothing more serious than a walking trail or a water tower.
Consider this issue: “CSX agreed in 2007 to give the [Cumberland Valley animal] shelter $600,000 if the shelter would relocate by September 2010. CSX was building a rail-truck terminal next door. Shelter officials feared the noise would stress the cats and dogs.” Imagine what it will do to people. Are we so much less important than cats and dogs? So it seems to MDOT and CSX, who do not appear to care a whit what damage they do to us in terms of health or welfare. Here is a link to that story.
Also, CSX and MDOT (which has a much-too-cozy relationship with CSX, given that it should be working for the citizens of the state of Maryland and not a private company) make it sound as though the intermodal would be at least a quarter mile away from houses. IT WOULD NOT. Many of our homes are literally yards from the proposed site in Hanover and would end up looking much like these in Worcester, MA, or Charleston, SC, (see photo).
Or take a look at a brochure that shows what the Hanover intermodal would really look like in our neighborhood.
Furthermore, as far as we have been able to determine, an intermodal freight yard in Hanover would set a terrible, terrible precedent by being the first such site to be built this close to this many homes where no rail yard was already in place. In all the other cases, there was an existing rail yard.
Our fight against CSX and MDOT (and, sadly, it is against our own state government agency, too) is not a case of Not in MY Back Yard: it’s a case of not in ANYONE’S back yard. An intermodal freight yard is simply and utterly incompatible with residential neighborhoods.
There is, happily, a solution: a Jessup site. There are no neighborhoods and there is already a CSX rail yard in operation. The problem with Jessup is money—supposedly it would cost more to build there, but those numbers are misleading. CSX has never figured in the cost of the damage it would cause to Hanover and Howard County and the steep price of so-called “mitigation” (although nothing could adequately mitigate the damage the site would cause our neighborhood, CSX would have to pay a considerable sum to save face and appear to be doing something).
Furthermore, CSX and MDOT have not been forthcoming about their methodology, they have not produced any raw data, they have given us nothing to permit independent verification of their so-called facts. Their protestations of “openness” belie a profound and stubborn opacity.
In short, there is a huge untold story here, not only about Hanover/Elkridge but also about the vast and seemingly limitless power of the railroads. I encourage you to have your reporters delve deeply into the entire issue of railroad intermodal sites and their impact on communities, especially Hanover/Elkridge.
Robyn Winder, Hanover, MD