Coca Cola Drive School Site in Precarious Position

One school board member asked, "...are we rolling the dice?" because a train-truck depot may be built nearby.

In making its decision about whether to select Oxford Square as the new middle school site last week, the Howard County Board of Education raised an issue that has worried some Elkridge-area residents for months.

On Oct. 20, the in the planned development off Coca Cola Drive in Hanover for a middle school to open in 2014. 

Less than 1.5 miles away from the site is land that CSX has bought for a , where trains and approximately 900 trucks per day would exchange cargo should the facility be built there. CSX and the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) are investigating the nearby site at Hanover and Race Road as well as three other sites in Maryland.

Transportation officials said that having the school on the nearby site would not necessarily be a determining factor in whether Hanover is chosen for the intermodal facility.

“We will continue to coordinate with the Howard County Public School System and Board of Education as we move through this process," said MDOT spokesman Jack Cahalan in an email to Patch following the school board's decision to move ahead with plans for the middle school. "However, at this time, we believe the two potential facilities could coexist."

Some school board members were not so sure.

 “…Are we rolling the dice?” asked board member Brian Meshkin, during the deliberation about the property at the board's Oct. 20 meeting.

"It could be that the board taking a position and putting a school on that site could help dissuade the [intermodal] facility from being located a mile and a half up the road," said board member Frank Aquino.

Another member spoke as though the intermodal facility were already there.

“This school is going to service students who live in that community, who will have that intermodal facility by their homes,” said school board member Sandra French. “…How far do we transport them to get them away from what is considered by some to be an undesirable facility?"

Ken Roey, director of facilities for the Howard County Public School System, said at last week's meeting that staff needed to get plans moving so the school could be eligible for 2013 funding.

Board members voted to proceed with the process.

"I don’t see how we can reasonably continue to delay based on the decision of some large company," said Aquino.

The board voted to approve the site, with Allen Dyer the only dissenter and Cindy Vaillancourt and student board member Tomi Williams abstaining.

Roey said that the school site had to be on the books for funding pruposes but that the actual site could be changed up until the time that "construction plans are executed."

Drew Roth, a parent who lives less than 2 miles from the proposed site, said, "We hope the school board only approved a middle school at the Oxford Square site to get in the state planning pipeline."

Continued Roth: "We really hope if the intermodal goes in the Hanover site, the school system will yank the school out of Oxford Square."

MDOT and CSX said the site for the intermodal facility would be determined by summer 2012.

"Leading up to the , we will be meeting with federal agencies to discuss the project schedule," said Cahalan. "The current project timeline anticipates completion of the NEPA [site selection] process in summer 2012. Any refinements to the project schedule, based on federal agency input, will be presented at the November workshops."

C October 26, 2011 at 08:02 PM
CSX may have said that the two facilities can co-exist, but I can't help but think that the presence of a school would weigh in the decision and they just don't want to admit it so as to not give their hand away. If nothing else, a school nearby creates bad press for them and increases their liability should anything happen to a child that was at all related to their facility. I'm not commenting on whether or not a school shouldn't go there for other reasons, but in the context of helping to negate the intermodal, I think this will certainly help a lot.
edb October 26, 2011 at 09:28 PM
@C...Take off your rose colored glasses. CSX will do whatever it wants regardless if there is a school nearby. Big business doesn't care about the little guy or the little guy's children.
C October 26, 2011 at 09:33 PM
I don't have rose colored glasses on. Just because I'm not a "the sky's falling, and the world is ending" type of person doesn't mean that I'm not a realist. CSX has lawyers and people who study the cost of factors like bad press. Why do you think they have so many "mvoing america forward" commercials? If they weren't concerned about public opinion they wouldn't pump out the money for those. And liability concerns aren't ignored, even by large businesses, because it's a potential cost. Now, if after weighing those and other factors CSX still wants to put the intermodal here, then yes, they absolutely will. All I'm doing is pointing out that those are factors in our favor. It's not the same as putting on rose colored glasses.
Eric Furst October 26, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Plus, a nearby school means that all those big trucks will be sharing a little road with a ton of big buses. Travel delays waste their money. Sounds like a pain in the butt that they would try to avoid if they had other equally suitable sites.
edb October 27, 2011 at 12:12 PM
@Eric....Have you traveled Hanover Rd lately? The infrastructure for the new 295 ramp is being installed. There won't be a little road for the trucks. They will have access from 100 ( down Coca Cola Dr) and access from a new 295 ramp.
edb October 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Have you ever spoken to anyone who has had CSX take over their neighborhood?? Well, some people working with GECA have. Those people live in a nightmare. Why don't you read some previous Patch articles and some of the links that are in the comment sections. Sounds like you're a new person around here and you need to be better informed about CSX and how our Federal Gov't has given the railroad free reign to do as it pleases....not just here, but all over the country. Placing a school on this site is playing chicken with the railroad and CSX's pockets are deeper than ours! And I can say these things because this intermodal will be near my backyard AND my children will quite probably go to this school...so yes, "the sky is falling" in my world and it should be in yours if you live near this site or have children.
Paul D October 27, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Lisa B has some good points. If I were CSX, I would love to put that transfer station @ the Hanover site: current access from 100 via Coca Cola Dr, a very good possibility of future access from 295 (both points made by Lisa B) AND all those warehouses at the intersection of High Tech and CC Dr where they can store stuff. However, I do think that the possibility of a new school back there has to put some pressure on CSX to consider alternate sites and I think the HOCO Bd of Education knows this...I think it's a smart move. There's so much stuff going on currently in Hanover/Elkridge that could be really, really good...or really, really bad. I believe what happens in the next 5 years could be a tipping point for the whole area.
Paul D October 27, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Just saw in the Howard County Times that the second round of public workshops have been scheduled for the proposed transfer sites...ours is Thurs, Nov. 17 from 7-9 pm @ Elkridge Landing Middle School. The more people that show up and voice concerns, the better. Dates and locations below: Tuesday, November 15, 7:30 until 9:30 pm Jessup Elementary School, 2900 Elementary School Lane, Jessup, Maryland 20794 (Anne Arundel County—Different location than April) Thursday, November 17, 7 until 9 pm Elkridge Landing Middle School, 7085 Montgomery Road, Elkridge, Maryland 21075 (Howard County - Same location as April) Monday, November 21, 7 until 9 pm Beltsville Academy, 4300 Wicomico Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705 (Prince George’s County—Same location as April)
C October 27, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Just to be clear, those workshops are hearings about the location of the intermodal. Even if you're against having a school on coca-cola drive, come out and let everyone know that you're against the intermodal. (at least, I think everyone here is against the intermodal)
Paul D October 27, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Yes, thank you C. Those workshops are for the CSX intermodal transfer facility placement location. Agreed that most are against the transfer facility being placed in the Elkridge/Hanover location...come out, show up and be counted!!
Elizabeth Janney (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 04:11 PM
As a point of clarification, these are not hearings. They are open houses where CSX and MDOT said they will do the following: "provide a project update, share the draft purpose and need statement, share preliminary results of environmental coordination, share statewide economic benefits, and receive questions and comments from the public."


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