By Todd Karpovich
The long-awaited Howard Street Tunnel project is moving forward again after CSX returned to the table with a $91 million commitment.
Height restrictions within CSX’s Howard Street Tunnel currently prevent the shipment of double-stacked intermodal containers by rail to and from the Port. This limitation puts Baltimore at a competitive disadvantage because all other major East Coast ports have double-stack rail capacity.
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, Steny H. Hoyer, Elijah E. Cummings, John P. Sarbanes, Andy P. Harris, John K. Delaney, Anthony G. Brown and Jamie B. Raskin and Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, met with CSX CEO Jim Foote at the U.S. Capitol to discuss a path to replace the Howard Street Tunnel, which has widely been described as “ancient.”
With its supersized cranes and deep container berth, the Port of Baltimore is one of only a few East Coast ports that can accommodate the biggest ships in the world. The Port’s next goal is to allow trains to carry double-stacked containers, which would expand Port business and maintain and increase jobs.
This project is estimated to create about 500 construction jobs over five years. Following completion, the project would lead to an estimated 3,000 jobs as a result of increased business through the Port, which would handle about 80,000 additional containers annually.
“We are pleased that CSX has reversed its position on the Howard Street Tunnel project and is once again supportive and willing to participate,” Sen. Cardin said. “Replacement of the Howard Street Tunnel is in the economic best interest of Baltimore and the region, as well as safety for the immediate area. It’s now incumbent on all stakeholders —federal, state, local and others in the private sector who would benefit from this project — to come together to update the finance plan for getting this done in the most efficient and safe manner possible.”
For many years, the cost to reconstruct the Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate double-stack intermodal trains was estimated at $1-$3 billion. There were also overriding concerns about disruption to the surrounding communities during construction.
“The Howard Street Tunnel is central to the success of the Port of Baltimore and the region’s economy,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “We were deeply concerned when CSX appeared to be walking away from the deal to expand the tunnel, and we’re pleased to hear they’re back at the negotiating table and are committing $91 million to the project. We will remain in close contact with all of the partners in this critical project to ensure we are able to move goods and freight across the state to support our workers and our economy.”