Analysis

National Center for Healthy Housing Publishes Health Impact Assessment of Proposed Baltimore-Washington Rail Intermodal Facility

COLUMBIA, MD (August 6, 2013) – The proposed rail and freight intermodal facility by CSX Transportation, Inc. at the Mount Clare Yard could worsen air quality and result in other health issues for the surrounding community, according to a health impact assessment (HIA) released today by the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), a national nonprofit dedicated to creating safe and healthy housing for America’s families. NCHH conducted the HIA of the proposed Baltimore-Washington Rail Intermodal Facility to evaluate the health impacts of the facility that could result from changes in air quality, noise levels, traffic, home valuation, and employment in southwest Baltimore.

Read more about this HIA

The HIA illustrates the community health effects of locating a rail and freight operation near residences in the Baltimore neighborhoods that make up the Morrell Park and Violetville area, home to over 9,000 residents. The report also highlights opportunities for CSX, state and city agencies to protect health in the facility’s design, construction, and operations, including:  

  • Establishing a site infrastructure fee to help target investments in the impacted community’s roads, schools, and parks
  • Conducting additional studies and long-term monitoring of air and noise pollution
  • Installing barriers or vegetation to help reduce air, light, and noise emissions from the facility’s equipment, which will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Monitoring and enforcing designated truck routes to help keep trucks off local roads
  • Improving and installing sidewalks and other safety measures to help protect pedestrians from the increase in truck traffic
  • Providing living-wage jobs for some of the unemployed residents in the surrounding community

Currently, the Morrell Park/Violetville residential area surrounding the facility has a higher death rate from cancer compared to the city of Baltimore. The community also has a higher death rate from heart disease and chronic lower respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma. The vulnerable health conditions of this community make it particularly susceptible to worsening air quality, which NCHH air quality models determined would be a product of increased truck traffic to and from the site.

“Residents living near all four of the initial proposed sites as well as communities near the Mount Clare Yard expressed concerns about the impact of the facility on their neighborhoods. They were also concerned that no one seemed to be looking at the health implications of the project,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of NCHH. “We are fortunate to have funding for the HIA to assist the community and to help CSX, the City of Baltimore, and the Maryland Department of Transportation to best protect the health of community residents.”

The report will be presented publicly at the August 6, 2013, Morrell Park Community Association meeting at 7 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 1805 Wickes Ave. in Baltimore. A meeting with CSX representatives has been scheduled for September 18, 2013, to review residents’ concerns.

NCHH secured funding to conduct the HIA of the intermodal facility project in December 2011 from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from The Kresge Foundation.

In 2012, CSX and the Maryland Department of Transportation selected the Mount Clare Yard in Baltimore as the location of the facility. The Baltimore-Washington Rail Intermodal Facility is part of the National Gateway Project being led by CSX to raise the vertical height of bridges and tunnels along CSX’s rail network and build intermodal facilities in six markets, including Baltimore.

"Goods movement expansion projects around the country are now being assessed using HIA so that community health concerns can be considered on equal footing with the regional economic impacts,” said Jonathan Heller, advisor on the research conducted by NCHH, co-director and co-founder of Human Impact Partners, a national nonprofit working to transform the policies and places people need to live healthy lives by increasing the consideration of health and equity in decision making. “This site is just one of many locations that will be impacted by the National Gateway project. This HIA provides a model for those communities to examine the health impacts in their communities.”

“NCHH researchers have listened to the neighborhood's health concerns and provided CSX concrete ways to address those concerns. That's exactly what a good HIA study should do,” said Rajiv Bhatia, a national HIA expert and advisor on the research conducted by NCHH. “Good HIA studies, like this one, get everyone from government officials to citizens to think more proactively about the ways that these kinds of local decisions affect health. Citizens have a right to expect that decision makers won't remain in the dark about possible health impacts. The city and state officials that participated in this HIA study are likely to be asking more of these questions in the future.”

Construction is set to begin on the new intermodal facility in fall 2013.

To view the full report visit: http://nchh.org/Portals/0/Contents/Intermodal-Facility-HIA_Preliminary-Report_August-2013.pdf

 

###

About the National Center for Healthy Housing

The National Center for Healthy Housing is the preeminent national nonprofit dedicated to creating safe and healthy housing for America’s families. It has trained over 350,000 individuals in lead-safe and healthy housing practices since 2005, and its research provides the scientific basis for major federal policies and programs. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards and to protect low-income families at highest risk. You can follow NCHH on Twitter @nchh or become a fan on Facebook at Facebook.com/HealthyHousing. To see a video about NCHH visit http://vimeo.com/59202134

Media Contact

Tami Holzman

Officer, Communications

202.552.2122