Railroad pays cost of tunnel overtime

Howard St. corridor gets advertising help from city and CSX

October 04, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

CSX Corp. is making good on a promise to pay the city's overtime costs for responding to the Howard Street tunnel derailment and fire, turning over a payment of $373,573 that was approved yesterday by the city Board of Estimates.

In addition, CSX and Baltimore announced yesterday that they will each contribute $20,000 to the Market Center Merchants Association to help pay for advertising for the Howard Street corridor, which suffered a sharp drop in business after the July 18 accident and water main break temporarily closed streets and light rail service.

"We are open and we are back in business," said Alvin J. Levi, president of the merchants association and owner of Howard Street Jewelers, speaking at a news conference with Mayor Martin O'Malley and representatives of CSX.

O'Malley and CSX made clear yesterday that the CSX payments were unrelated to the question of what caused the derailment.

"We felt this was the right thing to do as a good corporate citizen," said CSX spokesman Rob Gould. "We didn't want to [just] throw money at the situation. We wanted to be very honest about this and look at what is going to help restore normalcy in the city in the aftermath of the derailment."

Railroad officials have previously suggested that a broken water pipe might have contributed to the derailment, while city officials have insisted that the 40-inch water main burst after the derailment and may have been caused by heat from the fire. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the matter continues, and a final report might not be ready for a year.

The CSX payment to the city covers overtime costs for police officers, firefighters and other city workers who responded to the accident. The company is also covering the cleanup cost for a chemical leak that may have led to an Aug. 11 manhole explosion downtown, a bill that could approach $100,000. And last month, CSX gave firefighters four extended-breathing devices at a cost of close to $25,000, Gould said.

The company has also received nearly 200 claims from businesses totaling about $500,000, and has paid close to 25 claims for a total of about $50,000.

"By and large, where we have received the proper documentation and a demonstrable revenue stream, we have processed those claims," Gould said. "But it is a slow process."

The freight train derailment, fire and water main break damaged and shut down the intersection of Lombard and Howard streets until early last month, when it reopened after repairs -- and light rail service also was disrupted during that time.

Some Howard Street shop owners said business dropped 80 percent in the week after the derailment. Levi said his jewelry business was hurt for weeks while the nearby light rail stop was shut down. But he said merchants are ready to rebound.

"This whole Market Center area is going to be rising out of its own ashes," he said.

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