Gov. Larry Hogan tours 120-year-old Howard Street Tunnel

Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 24, 2016

It was Gov. Larry Hogan’s whistle stop tour of a piece of infrastructure built back when whistle stop tours were actually still a thing.

Hogan traveled on a specially equipped CSX train with a specially designed caboose, meant to give a full view out the back.

"Pretty cool isn’t it? This was perfect for seeing the entire tunnel I gotta tell ya," the governor quipped.

What Hogan wanted to see was the 120-year-old, 1.7-mile long Howard Street Tunnel up close for the first time, along with CSX's plan to fix it.

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CSX has new technology to create the additional foot or two of clearance the old tunnel needs in order to accommodate double stack trains. It's a much needed capacity that would change the game for the Port of Baltimore by finally breaking through a century-old bottle neck.

"The port is responsible for $51 billion a year to our economy and this could dramatically increase the production of the port. Quite frankly I think it is transformative not only to the Port of Baltimore, but Maryland's economy in general."

What's been preventing it was the cost of fixing the tunnel.

Previous estimates had it at $1 billion to $3 billion, but CSX has come up with a new plan costing a fraction of that price at $425 million.

Still, the state needs an assist from the feds, and applied for the grant earlier this year.

That ‘Fastlane’ Department of Transportation grant application was denied, but after the governor rode the rails down to the port Monday morning, he stepped off the train to announce the state will try for that money again.

This time, he's convinced it will happen.

"I know that we're gonna work really hard to get it done. I've personally spoken to the White House about this project. I had lunch with Vice President Biden to discuss this infrastructure project. I've discussed this with the President in the Oval Office. Our indication is that our project scored very high, that we just missed the funds last time and we are gonna push like heck to get it next time."                      

It is unclear when the feds will begin accepting the second round of applications.

Maryland is putting up $145 million, and CSX is putting forth $125 million. The state is asking the federal government for $155 million to round out the cost.

If approved, CSX says it can have the tunnel altered and ready for double stack trains in five years.

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