BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Howard Street Tunnel expansion is back on track after the railroad CSX Transportation reversed its decision to pull out of the project.
They have now committed $91 million toward it, Maryland officials confirmed Thursday.
U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Congressmen Steny Hoyer, Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, Andy Harris, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, met Thursday at the U.S. Capitol with CSX CEO Jim Foote to discuss a path to replace the Howard Street Tunnel.
The meeting came almost a year after Foote met with the Maryland delegation to review why the project had been abandoned by the former CEO.
Senator Ben Cardin said the delegation was pleased at CSX’s reversal on the project.
“We are pleased that CSX has reversed its position on the Howard Street Tunnel project and is once again supportive and willing to participate,” said Senator Cardin. “Replacement of the Howard Street Tunnel is in the economic interest of Baltimore and the region, as well as safety for the immediate area. It’s now incumbent on all stakeholders – federal, state, local and others in the private-sector who would benefit from this project – to come together to update the finance plan for getting this done in the most efficient and safe manner possible.” Cardin said.
Built in the 1890s, 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.
The tunnel gained national attention in 2001 with a train derailment and fire that interrupted freight traffic on the East Coast.
The project looked to be officially over after CSX withdrew its support, causing state officials to cancel a request for $155 million in federal money for the project.
“I am grateful to the CSX leadership for recognizing how vital it is that we create a new Howard Street Tunnel once and for all,” said Mayor Pugh. “We can no longer neglect essential infrastructure improvements in our City and we welcome this partnership with CSX to get the job done with regard to the Tunnel. This will not only remedy a serious safety hazard, but it’s an investment in our City’s longer-term competitive interests.”