Expansion of 126-year-old tunnel in Baltimore given the green light

Plans to expand the 126-year-old Howard Street Tunnel can move forward after the project received a Finding of No Significant Impact. (Courtesy MDOT MPA)

The plan to expand the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore is set to move forward, receiving a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) after a review of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.

The expansion would revamp the 126-year-old tunnel to account for trains with double-stacked containers traveling to and from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.

The receipt of a FONSI was the final NEPA approval the project needed. CSX Transportation, which owns the tunnel, will now be able to finalize engineering plans and obtain permits.

Construction is expected to begin later this year and will be done in stages.

The tunnel currently sits too low for trains to carry double-stacked containers. The project will lower or alter tracks, and modify or replace bridges.

“The Howard Street Tunnel expansion is a major infrastructure project that will significantly increase business for the Port of Baltimore,” Hogan said in a statement. “This project will have a tremendous impact on Maryland’s economy, improve the flow of goods, and generate thousands of jobs in the Baltimore region.”

Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William Doyle said the project could make room for “incredible business opportunities into the Midwest” for Maryland’s container business.

“It also will help reduce fuel consumption by 137 million gallons via this rail throughput,” Doyle said. “A Howard Street Tunnel that’s able to handle double-stack trains will grow jobs at the Port and get the Port over its longtime hurdle, the lack of double-stack rail.”

The project is estimated to cost $466 million. Around $202.5 million will come from Maryland, $125 million from a federal Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant, $113 million from CSX, $22.5 million from Pennsylvania and $3 million in federal highway formula funding.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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