Stacking freight rail cars two high is now a reachable reality in Maryland, as the state and CSX have come up with enough funding to expand the Howard Street Tunnel, which leads to the Port of Baltimore.
Negotiations have been going on for months, and back in July Maryland received a $125 million federal grant for the $466 million project. Now, the state and CSX have identified state, private and federal formula sources to close the gap entirely. Vertical clearances also will be improved at 22 bridges between Baltimore and Philadelphia to allow for double-stacking on freight trains.
CSX is not revealing how much money it is putting up for the project, but Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn says the project is now fully funded.
At one time CSX pulled away from the project because it said the financial commitment was just too great, but Maryland convinced the Class 1 railroad to stay involved. Federal lawmakers then worked with the federal government to secure funding, and even spoke directly with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
To create room for the double-stacked rail cars the Howard Street Tunnel, which is currently 18 in. too short, will have its ceiling notched and floor lowered. Steel crossties, which lie lower than wood, also will be used. The project is expected to last up to four years, but traffic will be able to move through during construction.
The Port of Baltimore moved through 10.9 million tons of cargo last year, marking the third consecutive year it dealt with over 10 million tons.
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