Governor disappointed as CSX bails on Baltimore's Howard Street Tunnel expansion

CSX doesn't move forward with new tunnel
Posted at 9:33 PM, Nov 01, 2017

The Baltimore Port is booming the Governor says.

Three straight years of growth buoyed by deeper berths for larger ships, new cranes and a more efficient approach has the Port of Baltimore topping many categories on the east coast, but all that progress is getting choked off by a 120  year old bottle neck.

It is why last year CSX came to the state with a new plan, shave off the 2 feet it needs from the ceiling to literally double the freight running through one of the oldest rail tunnels in the country.

"The modern, most efficient way to move goods now is by double stack clearing which is  taking two of the tractor trailer containers you see every day on 95 and stacking one onto another and the only way to do that is increasing the clearance to this tunnel," Vice President of Strategic Infrastructure for CSX told ABC2 last year.

The method to increase that clearance was developed by CSX and would be a fraction of the cost of replacing the Howard Street Tunnel; the difference between 400 million dollars and 4 billion.

A taller artery would allow the port to grow faster which means jobs and an economic boon for Baltimore and better profit margins for the railroad.

Equal funding parts between CSX, the state and feds would have gotten it done in just a few years until late yesterday when an about face by the railroad derailed the entire plan.

"We haven’t yet had the chance to talk with the leadership, the new leadership at CSX who changed their mind but we are going to try and get the information from them and we will take a look at it. I still think it is a worthwhile project," said Governor Larry Hogan.

As a result of CSX bailing on the agreement, the administration had to pull back its grant application for the federal money.

Right now the deal is dead but Hogan says he is still committed to this project although the state simply cannot do it alone.

"I am not giving up. I am gonna keep pushing. We will meet with CSX, we'll meet with the secretary of transportation. We will talk about it with our transportation group and with the port administration and see what kind of a new plan we can come up with."

CSX says the project no longer justifies the level of investment required.

Officials say that although the project was to help CSX infrastructure, the state of Maryland would not have been able to move forward with the project without their assistance and support.

In a letter, the Maryland Department of Transportation called the decision both surprising and incredibly troubling.

The Howard Street Tunnel is more than a century old and the project was supposed to expand it and help provide a more efficient way to move goods.

The state hoped the project would bring more cargo to the ports and potentially more jobs.

MDOT says they will still plan to work with CSX to consider other ways to improve the traffic through the tunnel.