Hogan Administration Submits FASTLANE Grant Application to Double-Stack Howard Street Tunnel
Project Will Break the Rail Bottleneck from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore to East Coast
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced that the state has submitted an application for a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) FASTLANE grant to double-stack the Howard Street Tunnel. This submission follows the governor’s rail tour with Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn on October 24, where he committed to working in partnership with CSX Chairman and CEO Michael J. Ward to move this vital project forward. Reconstructing the 121-year-old tunnel will accommodate double-stacked container trains and break a rail bottleneck that impacts the entire East Coast.
“This is an essential project for the Port of Baltimore, Maryland, and the entire East Coast,” said Governor Hogan. “Reconstructing the Howard Street Tunnel will create thousands of jobs, open up new trade lanes for the Port, and improve overall freight rail service across our nation. I’d like to thank Chairman Ward, Maryland’s congressional delegation, and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh for their support and partnership.”
The MDOT Howard Street Tunnel application received more than 100 endorsements across Maryland and up and the down the East Coast from Massachusetts to Florida. MDOT received support letters from a vast range of people representing businesses, environmental groups, and government calling for federal funding to make necessary infrastructure adjustments to the Howard Street Tunnel.
“The Howard Street Tunnel project will be a boost to Maryland’s economy, reduce traffic on Maryland’s highways, and improve the flow of commerce up and down the eastern seaboard,” said CSX Chairman Ward. “CSX is very pleased to be able to partner with Governor Hogan, the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore to pursue federal funding for this transformational critical infrastructure project. The Howard Street Tunnel was built 121 years ago to connect Baltimore with the nation, and this project will ensure that vital connection remains available into the future.”
Height restrictions within CSX’s Howard Street Tunnel currently prevent the shipment of double-stacked intermodal containers (two shipping containers stacked on top of each other) by rail to and from the Port of Baltimore and up and down the East Coast. Double-stack provides a more cost effective way to transport freight by rail than by truck. The added benefit is that it also will take more trucks off our interstates and reduce congestion along the entire I-95 corridor.
For years, reconstruction of the Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate double-stack intermodal trains was believed to cost between $1 billion and $3 billion and be highly disruptive to the surrounding community. By utilizing recent advances in construction technology including a technique that involves lowering the floor and notching the crown of the tunnel, CSX and MDOT have determined it is now possible to provide double-stack clearance in the tunnel and under nine bridges for $445 million with minimal impact to the community. CSX and the state have committed a combined minimum of $290 million towards this effort and the state is seeking federal funds for the balance of the project cost.
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 carrying containers to be double-stacked which would increase port business and maintain and grow jobs. The Port of Baltimore would handle approximately 80,000 additional containers annually once the Howard Street Tunnel is reconstructed.
Combining both the public and private marine terminals, the Port of Baltimore saw 32.4 million tons of international cargo cross its docks last year, which was valued at approximately $51.1 billion. Baltimore is ranked as the top port among all U.S. ports for handling autos and light trucks, farm and construction machinery, imported gypsum, imported sugar, and imported aluminum. Overall Baltimore is ranked ninth for the total dollar value of cargo and 13th for cargo tonnage for all U.S. ports.
Business at the Port of Baltimore generates about 13,650 direct jobs, while more than 127,000 jobs in Maryland are linked to port activities. The Port is responsible for nearly $3 billion in personal wages and salary and $310 million in state and local tax revenues.