Proposed Beltsville train-loading station has some residents worried
State officials considering three other sites
There could soon be a lot more traffic and congestion in and around Beltsville.
That's what residents and some officials fear if a new train-loading station is built in that community.
The proposed 70-acre facility, which is slated for completion in 2015, would be a transfer point for double-stacked containers of consumer goods coming from the Port of Baltimore on trucks. There, the containers would be loaded onto on-site CSX trains for transport to local stores.
"We've got megaships coming in because of the Panama Canal being widened. In doing so, we expect to have more freight," said Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Henson.
The Beltsville site, at Powder Mill Road and Sunnyside Avenue, is one of four under consideration. MDOT and CSX are also looking at a site near the Jessup Correctional Facility in Anne Arundel County, a site in Hanover in Anne Arundel County and another site in the Howard County portion of Jessup.
To be chosen, Beltsville would need to meet National Environmental Policy Act safety guidelines.
"There is a thorough NEPA process that will take roughly 12 months," Henson said. "[It] will start this summer."
After receiving NEPA appoval, officials would finalize designs and obtain permits and approvals from the county, followed by an estimated 18-month construction period.
Beltsville resident Stacey Shipley is concerned about the possibility of increased noise and congestion.
"We live pretty decently close to [Interstate] 95 and we can hear the trucks going down Powder Mill Road. Between the [Intercounty Connector] dumping traffic into the area, what's this going to do to our neighborhoods?" Shipley asked.
Local politicians, including Laurel City Council President Mike Leszcz, have written and signed letters to state and federal officials voicing concern over the possibility of using the Beltsville site, which sits close to Indian Creek.
"It's a runoff issue," Leszcz said. "You're always worried about runoff from trucks, containers when it rains, and whatever is not absorbed into the ground runs off into the nearby habitat."
Leszcz said although the site is in Beltsville, increased congestion would also affect Laurel because many large trucks use state Route 198 to join I-95.
State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) of College Park and Dels. Barbara Frush (D-Dist. 21) of Beltsville, Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) of College Park and Ben Barnes (D-Dist. 21) of College Park all voiced similar concerns in a letter May 20 to Maryland Secretary of Transportation Beverly Swaim-Staley.
But Henson said whichever site is chosen for the $150 million project must meet all federal environmental regulations, which includes "everything from traffic impact to the environment."
The four sites were chosen based on criteria including acreage and accessibilty to a major highway. Officials also chose sites south of the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.
Henson said this position will allow trains to bypass the tunnel, which cannot accomodate double-stacked containers.
"Double stacking the containers just makes for a much more fuel efficient method of delivery," she said.
Funding will be split between CSX and the state. Henson said the state will seek federal aid, which is why it must abide by NEPA regulations.