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CSX Addresses Howard Street Tunnel Safety Concerns

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Mike Schuh 370x278 Mike Schuh
Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― For nine years, the city has been asking CSX to make its underground railroad tunnel in downtown Baltimore safer. Now, as Mike Schuh reports, the mayor got a look at what’s been promised and what’s been done.

The rail tunnel runs from the stadiums under Howard Street up to Mount Vernon.

Nine years ago, a derailment started a fire that burned for 5 days. It led to a huge water main break. East coast rail traffic was snarled, and it was then that our city learned about the dragon waiting to erupt under its streets.

Since then, there have been many calls for improvement. And after a minor derailment in August, came a plan from CSX. Five miles of rails have been replaced and will continue to be replaced every 10 years–twice as often as the norm.

Instead of each quarter, the tunnel will get a computerized inspection each month. CSX will make a walking inspection each week and they’ll improve drainage.

“By replacing the rail, pumps, inspections we’re confident we can prevent any safety issues in the Howard Street Tunnel,” Gary Sease, CSX spokesman.

Friday, the mayor was taken on a tour to point out what the rail line is doing. It was her first time inside.

“I think it was important for me to lay my eyes on this crucial corridor,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The improvements are more than they have to due under federal law.

“Going above and beyond what’s required by law is one way to help us to make sure it’s safe,” the major said.

For years, CSX and the city had a chilly and contentious relationship. WJZ was told that once the city lawsuit to force CSX to fix their bridges was settled, that relationship suddenly thawed.

“It might have been bad in the past, but we’re in a different time now,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake said.

Police, fire and emergency management also took the tour.

In addition to the improvements in the tunnel, the fire department and the railroad are collaborating on a new communication system, so in an emergency everyone can talk with each other while underground.

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