Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hanover Intermodal Site Gets Favorable Review

Though the officials involved will insist otherwise, it would be hard not to conclude from the current MDOT/CSX public workshops that the proposed Hanover site is the best candidate for the CSX intermodal terminal. All of the four main factors that the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) selection process must take into consideration, the Hanover site has only one negative while the other three sites have at least two. According to Dominic Wiker, the Project Manger for MDOT, none of these individual factors carry any more weight than the others.

The Hanover site has the zoning, is not in a flood plain, contains virtually no wetlands, and does not impact any historic areas or structures. The Beltsville site does not have the zoning, is located in a flood plain and includes a historic area. The Montevideo site has the zoning but also has significant wetlands and is in a flood plain and historic areas. The Jessup site lacks the zoning and is almost all floodplain and wetlands, not to mention the home of an endangered species, the Glassy Darter.

And then there is the cost.

Preliminary analysis has further determined that the Hanover site would be the least costly to develop and not by an insignificant amount. It is estimated to be at least $35 million cheaper than the next lowest cost alternative, Beltsville. According to this story by Kevin Rector in Explore Howard these preliminary cost estimates take into account “a variety of projected expenses, including cost of acquiring land from private owners, the cost of gaining water, electric and utility access, the cost of shifting or relocating existing infrastructure and the cost of mitigating specific environmental concerns…”

The only area where Hanover comes up short of course is proximity to existing homes and some of those homeowners have been trying to get the Hanover site eliminated from consideration. These opponents were somewhat heartened last week when the HoCo school board sent a letter to Beverly Swaim-Staley, the Maryland Secretary of Transportation “strongly” urging her to consider an alternative site. The school board is concerned because they recently approved putting a new middle school just down the road from the Hanover site at Oxford Square. They did this knowing full well that an intermodal terminal in Hanover was a real possibility. It kind of makes you wonder what they were thinking.

In any event, based on what is being presented in the public workshops, the final selection of the intermodal terminal is still a long way off. According to this story by Michael Dresser in The Sun, “Residents who go to the workshops hoping to find clues to the eventual location are likely to be frustrated. Officials at Tuesday's briefing remained studiously neutral about the choices under consideration. Residents who may be concerned about the future of their neighborhoods are unlikely to know the outcome before late next year, when a site choice is expected to be announced.”
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