Plans to expand the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore came to a halt as CSX has decided not to pursue the project.
Height restrictions within the 121-year-old tunnel prevent the shipment of double-stacked intermodal containers by rail to and from the Port of Baltimore. The tunnel is also one of the last impediments to a once-held CSX vision of having a fully double-stack cleared rail corridor between Florida and New York.
What a difference a year and a new CEO makes. In October 2016, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and then-CEO of CSX Mike Ward joined to reiterate their shared commitment to seeing the project through to fruition. The two also pointed out that advancements in construction allowed for the project cost to be reduced from an estimated $1-3 billion to $425 million. The Class 1 had previously committed $145 million to the project with Maryland committing $125 million and applying in December 2016 for a federal grant to help fund the balance of the project.
The railroad said the proposed project no longer justifies the level of investment required; a determination brought by an updated network evaluation, as well as recently adopted operating changes by CSX’s new leadership team.
The expanded tunnel was seen as a way to raise the Port of Baltimore’s competitive edge and provide a boost to the state and regional economies. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said the department would not submit an application for an INFRA grant on the project, but said the department would work with CSX to “pursue innovative ideas” to efficiently and effectively move freight through the port.