Ruppersberger sees thaw at CSX
I ran into U.S. Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger at the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation gathering in Columbia Thursday and we had a brief chat about relations with CSX Corp. -- the giant freight railroad with a long history of prickly relationships with state and local governments.
Ruppersberger, who said he found CSX difficult to deal with during his 1994-2002 stint as Baltimore County Executive, said he's been chatting regularly and cordially with CSX Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward.
Ward, a Baltimore native, took over as CEO in 2003 -- two years after the Howard Street Tunnel Fire. That derailment and fire strained relations with the city administration of then-Mayor Martin O'Malley.
The nation's freight railroads, which are both regulated and protected by the federal government, have been known in the past to treat local elected officials with ill-concealed disdain over such matters as the security of hazardous cargo.In Maryland, there has been tension over the use of CSX tracks for MARC commuter service and the importance of replacing the century-old Howard Street Tunnel.
Ruppersberger said he has noticed a climate change in recent discussions. "I have really seen a major difference," the Second District Democrat said.
It might seem like a small thing, but Maryland and Baltimore have a lot to gain from a more productive interaction with CSX. And with a Maryland guy, state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, slated for the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of Transportation, CSX might have something to gain as well.