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VIDEO: Maryland Officials Kick Off Expansion of Baltimore's Howard Street Tunnel

Wed December 01, 2021 - Northeast Edition
Office of Governor Larry Hogan

Public and private sector leaders, led by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, were on hand Nov. 29 in breaking ground on the $466 million Howard Street Tunnel expansion project, which will reconstruct the 126-year-old freight rail tunnel to accommodate double-stacked container trains to and from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.

The effort is expected to generate 6,550 construction jobs and an additional 7,300 jobs from increased business at the Port.

Hogan was joined by Jim Foote, CEO and president of CSX, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Deputy Administrator Amit Bose, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Greg Slater, and MDOT Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) Executive Director William P. Doyle.

"Today, as we kick off reconstruction of this Howard Street Tunnel, we are proving once again that investing in infrastructure is critical to our state and national economies and to the lives of everyday Marylanders and Americans," said Hogan. "This is a continuation of our concerted efforts to make the Port of Baltimore much more competitive with other ports for the extremely sought after containerized cargo market. It is an absolute game changer, not just for Maryland, but for the entire region."

Tunnel Clearance to Be Raised 18 Inches

The reconstruction work consists of vertical clearance improvements at the Howard Street Tunnel and at 21 other locations between Baltimore and Philadelphia to allow double stacking, where two shipping containers are stacked and transported on top of each other. Crews will rebuild the tunnel, owned by CSX, to provide an additional 18 in. of clearance.

Three additional bridges in Baltimore also will require superstructure work: the North Avenue bridge will be modified, and the Guilford Avenue and Harford Road bridges will be replaced. Other locations in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania will require only track lowering beneath the structures.

"Expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel has been a goal for decades because we know what it means for jobs and economic growth," commented Slater. "Today, it's becoming a reality because of the leadership of Gov. Hogan and the hard work, vision and collaboration of all the partners — MDOT, CSX, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Baltimore.

"Freight rail is an essential link in the nation's supply chain," Slater continued. "This investment strengthens that link for generations to come and positions the Port of Baltimore as the primary hub for the East Coast and a major conduit for goods moving across America."

Upgrades Increase Importance of Baltimore's Port

With its deep container berths and supersized cranes, including four new mega-cranes that arrived in September, the Port of Baltimore is among only a few East Coast seaports that can accommodate some of the largest container ships in the world. Double-stack capabilities will allow Baltimore to accommodate expected container growth in future years. In addition, double stacking also will provide a more cost-effective way to transport freight by rail compared to trucks, thus reducing congestion along the Interstate 95 corridor, and delivering environmental benefits with less emissions.

"CSX is proud to officially break ground on the Howard Street Tunnel project and move forward on an initiative made possible by the collaboration between state, port and federal partners," Foote explained.

"This project will modernize our rail infrastructure in this key corridor and help improve freight transportation, increase freight rail capacity, and further intermodal connectivity between the markets we serve. It will enhance rail's competitiveness with trucks, providing customers with a sustainable alternative and remove more traffic from the highways."

Estimated Cost Much Lower Than Expected

For years, reconstruction of the old tunnel to accommodate double-stack trains was estimated to cost between $1 billion to $4 billion, with significant disruption to surrounding communities. By utilizing advances in construction technology, CSX and the state of Maryland have determined it is possible to provide double-stack clearance for significantly less money and minimal impact to communities.

The project's current $466 million cost includes $202.5 million from the state, $125 million in a federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant, $113 million from CSX, $22.5 million from Pennsylvania and $3 million in federal highway formula funding. The money was split between parties that benefit from the project; the state of Maryland will prosper through increased container business at the seaport.

The Port of Baltimore generates approximately 15,300 direct jobs, with nearly 140,000 jobs overall linked to the harbor's activities. The dockyard ranks first among the nation's ports for volume of autos and light trucks, roll on/roll off heavy farm and construction machinery, and imported gypsum. Additionally, it ranks 11th among major U.S. ports for foreign cargo handled and 10th for total foreign cargo value.

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