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Investigation Into Who Is To Blame For City Wall Collapse Underway

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- City landslide. Cleanup is underway after a massive road collapse following heavy rains and flooding across the state.

The people who were forced out of their homes or lost their cars want to know how this happened.

Derek Valcourt investigates who is at fault and if there was any warning.

Residents and even some politicians say, for years, they have been worried and warning that something like this could happen. Now the question is--who is responsible?

Related Story: Cleanup Begins After Retaining Wall Collapse Swallows Several Cars On 26th Street

It's a CSX train line along a city street, and for years, residents raised alarms to the city and the train company.

"I could just look down the wall and see that it was bowing," one man said.

"We knew it was going to happen," said Lee Truelove. "I mean, we've been watching it for years."

"Three years I've been calling in. The city has come out five or six times and told me not to worry, that everything was OK," one man said. "Now, of course, the guys who come out in the trucks, they don't really know. They just come out, look at the situation. They're not engineers or anything. They're utility workers."

"I wrote to the CSX a year ago about this," said Jeanne Knight, Old Goucher Neighborhood Association.

WJZ investigates, finding a recent CSX letter dated in April to one complaining resident, insisting CSX did inspect and found the area safe, adding any sinking was a result of a defect in the public water system and the city's problem.

"I think it's CSX's responsibility," said Bernard "Jack" Young, City Council President.

Young raised safety concerns to CSX about this very area back in 1998.

"If they had listened and took care of this problem back then, you guys wouldn't be here today talking to me," he said.

The collapsed wall was built in the late 1800s. Much of the city's current infrastructure was built around it.

"This incident crosses what the city owns and what CSX owns. So it's too early to say who's responsible and who's footing the bill," Mayor Rawlings-Blake said.

The mayor insists the city did respond to citizen concerns and conducted a structural test on the wall one year ago and found no weaknesses.

"I'm asking the questions that you are asking, What happened between last year when we did a structural test and now?" the mayor said.

Rawlings-Blake is hoping to avoid a dispute similar to what happened in 2001. That's when a train derailed, causing the infamous Howard Street tunnel fire. CSX and the city blamed each other for the damage. It took legal action to settle the dispute.

"I want to make sure that, in Baltimore, that we're working together so nothing like this happens again," the mayor said.

Many nearby property owners, like Bob Leffler, believe a combination of factors is to blame, including a tough winter, recent torrential rains and nearby Charles Street construction.

"I think going up 26th Street with all this heavy equipment might not have helped matters," Leffler said.

Now many question marks remain as the hunt for responsibility continues.

CSX released the following statement:

"CSX is working with local authorities to support a fast and full recovery from yesterday's embankment collapse. At this time, our focus remains on the safety and well-being of our neighbors, especially those who left their homes, first responders and other agencies, as well as our customers."

"Some rerouting is underway where possible, though these efforts will not affect commuter service. There are no passenger services on this line. At this time, we expect customer service to resume as early as this evening. The company will then shift its focus to any backlog of trains."

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