BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Maryland’s congressional delegation wants CSX Transportation to explain why it will no longer back a train tunnel project that city and state officials had hoped would bring more cargo to the Port of Baltimore.
The move is disappointing especially since it derails a plan to make the port more competitive, but Gov. Larry Hogan told reporters Thursday he’s not giving up.
CSX said in a statement this week that it does not support expanding the century-old Howard Street Tunnel under downtown to accommodate trains with shipping containers stacked two-high. Balitmore’s port has seen increased shipments of the truck-size containers since the expanded Panama Canal opened last year.
Built in the 1890’s, it was the longest tunnel in the B&O railroad system, brick-lined with iron-arched centerings. The Howard Street Tunnel is on the National Register of Historic Places, but in modern day usefulness, it’s considered the choke point on the I-95 of CSX Transportation. Freight trains can only get cargo containers through one car at a time, putting the Port of Baltimore at a competitive disadvantage.
“We had a great plan put together with CSX, the federal government and the state government kind of sharing in the cost of that — could have had a transformative effect on our economy and really increase the production of the port even further,” Gov. Hogan said. “We’ll be reviewing our options to see if there’s some way to get this back on track because we still think it’s very important for the State.”
In a letter to the CEO of CSX on Wednesday, congressional lawmakers said they want to know why a project that had been a priority for the railroad company — as well as local, state and federal officials — is suddenly no longer important to CSX, which owns the tunnel.
The increased production at the port anticipated by the tunnel renovation was expected to bring an additional 3,000 jobs to the State.
CSX attributed pulling out to a new operating plan by stating:
“CSX appreciates the partnership we have developed with the state and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with our partners about our new operating plan.”
“State can’t do it alone and CSX owns the tunnel but we’re going to continue, I’m not giving up,” Hogan said.
The immediate action was to cancel the State’s request for $155 million in federal dollars.
The railroad and the State had agreed to provide $270 million but since then CSX has undergone some restructuring.
The tunnel gained national attention in 2001 with a train derailment and fire that interrupted freight traffic on the East Coast.
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