BALTIMORE — The Howard Street Tunnel expansion project appears destined to become a reality, after passing its final environmental hurdle.
On Wednesday, the project received a finding of No Significant Impact, which followed a public comment period required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The expansion of the 126-year-old tunnel would accommodate double-stacked container trains traveling to and from the Port of Baltimore.
As part of the project three Baltimore City bridges, the North Avenue, Guilford Avenue and Harford Road bridges, will be fully replaced.
It would also add improvements at 22 other locations between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Now that the environmental process has been completed, the tunnel's owners, CSX, can finalize engineering plans and obtain construction permits. Construction will occur in phases and is expected to begin later this year.
The cost of the project is estimated at $466 million -- $202.5 million of which will come from Maryland, $125 million in federal grants, $113 million from CSX, and $22.5 million from Pennsylvania.
Officials say the tunnel project could create 6,550 construction jobs, with 7,300 more jobs potentially coming from increased business.
Double stacking could also reduce congestion along the I-95 corridor, meaning less vehicle emissions.
Dredging was recently completed for a second, 50-foot-deep berth at the Port of Baltimore.
Read the tunnel's environmental documentation here.