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Street Collapse A Long Time Coming

Residents in Charles Village said Thursday they have complained repeatedly to Baltimore City and CSX officials about the conditions of the unit block of East 26th Street, which collapsed onto train tracks Wednesday after a retaining wall gave way.

The concerns date back to at least 1998, when The Baltimore Sun reported on squabbling between the city and CSX over who was responsible for fixing and maintaining the wall.

Then 2nd District City Councilman Jack Young said he was “just sick of the condition of railroad properties in our city.”

Christian Wilson, who has lived in the area for 14 years, was among several people who complained to CSX and the city last year about the condition of the property.  He noticed the street was getting worse before it gave way Wednesday afternoon.

“What we’ve been noticing is that there was a crack that there was extending from either North Charles Street all the way over to St. Paul Street,” Wilson said.

Katie Kisner, northern region community affairs and safety manager for CSX, said she didn’t “have any specific information” about the residents’ complaints. Media contacts at CSX corporate headquarters in Florida failed to return a call.

Matthew Bradby, program manager for the Charles Village Community Benefits District, shot a video of the street just before the collapse.  The video, posted to his Facebook page, shows the sidewalk caving in and vehicles parked on the street extremely tilted.

Bradby called 911 as soon as his crew chief reported the street was falling apart.

“Then [I] let the guys know to ‘hey, take the trucks; block of the street; make sure nobody goes to their vehicles,” said Bradby who said the street was sinking in and about to collapse.

Baltimore City Fire Department Spokesman Ian Brennan said crews will stabilize the ground as they clean up the damage.

The eight vehicles that were severely damaged by the collapse will be moved to the Department of Transportation yard on Pulaski Highway where owners can claim them and begin making insurance claims.

The city is also looking to find responsibility for the collapse.