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Paying For E 26th St Repairs, Calls For Rail Improvements, and Special Immigrant Status

P. Kenneth Burns

An agreement has been reached on how to pay to fix the retaining wall that collapsed along Baltimore’s East 26th Street amid heavy rains in April. The push for railroad improvements in Baltimore and the Northeast Corridor is continuing. The story of one of the thousands of unaccompanied minors who’ve come to the US from Central America. And more.

Baltimore To Split E. 26th Street Restoration Costs With CSX: An agreement has been reached on how to pay to fix the retaining wall that collapsed along Baltimore’s East 26th Street amid heavy rains in April. The Baltimore Sun reports that the city has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with CSX Transportation, and that the two will split the costs of repairing the damage. The deal comes more than three months after the incident in Charles Village… in which a street collapsed, sending light poles and cars onto the train tracks below. The incident temporarily displaced many nearby residents for weeks, while initial fixes were made. It was originally estimated that the total bill for rebuilding the block-long retaining wall would be around $18.5-million. But that price estimate has been dropped to about $15-million, and after yesterday’s agreement, taxpayers will only be on the hook for about $7.5 million of that. Baltimore’s Board of Estimates is expected to approve the agreement when it meets tomorrow.

Maryland Lawmakers Push For Rail Improvements:  The push for railroad improvements in Baltimore and the Northeast Corridor is continuing. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is among those who wants to see big improvements to a 141-year-old tunnel near Penn Station – the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, a 1.4-mile two-track rail tunnel that was built in 1873. Because of the curves in the tunnel, trains are forced to slow down significantly in order to get through. And accidents in the tunnel have led to significant disruptions along the Northeast Corridor… including a minor derailment last year… and a tunnel fire in 2001. The tunnel project could be tackled if Congress passes the so-called Grow America Act which would provide $19-billion dollars for the American railroad system. The Baltimore Sun reports that Congress isn’t expected to act on the bill until January of next year, at the earliest. WJZ has more.

Special Immigrant Status For Unaccompanied Minors: The number of unaccompanied minors coming to the U-S from Central America continues to grow… and thousands of them are joining relatives in Maryland. WYPR’s Christopher Connelly has the story of one of these young migrants.

Grants To Help Homeless Vets: Maryland will receive a share of $300-million in federal grants to help homeless and at-risk veterans and their families. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded just over $5-million in homeless prevention grants to six Maryland-based nonprofits. The money is intended to help 925 Maryland veterans with outreach, case management and assistance in obtaining VA benefits. The Baltimore Sun reports that there are about 300 homeless veterans who live in Baltimore alone.

Grants To Expand Domestic Violence Prevention Program: Some $70-thousand in grants are going to expand a domestic violence prevention program at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Called the “Bridge Project,” the initiative serves incoming patients – and provides victims of domestic violence the tools they need to get out of dangerous situations and rebuild their lives. It offers help of domestic violence specialists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Daily Record reports that deaths from domestic violence in Maryland are falling… from 75 five years ago, to 50 in the most recent year data is available. WJZ has more.

Alley Sweeping In Baltimore: Baltimore is bringing its mechanical street sweeping program to some select alleyways in the city. The alley sweeping is being limited to neighborhoods with wide, paved and intact alleys, where the mechanical sweepers are most effective. City officials say they are buying three alley sweeping trucks for the task; they come at a cost of $15-thousand dollars apiece. The Baltimore Brew has more.

Limited Sales-Tax-Free Shopping Week Continues: Maryland’s limited sales-tax-free shopping week is underway. State Comptroller Peter Franchot is traveling the state to promote the event, which offers shoppers a break from the 6% state sales tax on qualifying clothing and footwear. Franchot calls this “the most important shopping week of the year,” and tells the Capital Gazette that it should serve to “jumpstart the fall shopping season.” Not everything is exempt from the six-percent sales tax, though. Only items that are $100 or less are tax-free – and even then, there are some exceptions; for example: while cowboy boots are tax exempt, ski boots are not. A list of what’s exempt and what isn’t is available here.  Tax-free week runs through Saturday.

Lottery Sales Down; Casino Revenues Up: Maryland lottery sales are down for a second straight year. State officials say the lottery generated more than $1.7-billion dollars in sales for Fiscal Year 2014, down one-point-seven-percent from the previous year. What was lost in lottery revenue, however, was more than made up for in casino revenue – and state officials tell the Daily Record that Maryland’s growing casino industry is likely responsible for the decline in lottery sales.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles won last night’s game against the New York Yankees; 11 to 3 was the score. The two teams play again tonight; first pitch is set for 7:05pm.

WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.