(The Center Square) – Gov. Larry Hogan led a groundbreaking ceremony Monday in Annapolis for the Howard Street Tunnel Expansion project.
The governor said in a news release the $466 million project will permit double-stacked containers to pass through the 126-year-old tunnel and generate more business at Baltimore’s port while creating nearly 14,000 jobs.
The project, which includes the freight line from Annapolis to the Helen Delich Bently Port of Baltimore, will create 6,550 construction jobs and more than 7,300 jobs due to an increase in business at the port.
“Today, as we kick off reconstruction of this Howard Street Tunnel, we are proving once again that investing in infrastructure is critical to our state and national economies and to the lives of everyday Marylanders and Americans,” Hogan said. “This is a continuation of our concerted efforts to make the Port of Baltimore much more competitive with other ports for the extremely sought after containerized cargo market. It is an absolute game changer, not just for Maryland, but for the entire region.”
CSX CEO and President Jim Foote, Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator Amit Bose, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Greg Slater, and Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle joined the governor at the ceremony.
According to the release, the project will raise vertical clearance to accommodate double-stacked freight cars at the Howard Street Tunnel and 21 other locations between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
At the Howard Street Tunnel, 18 inches of additional clearance will be created, and three bridges in Baltimore will need work, according to the release. The North Avenue bridge will have superstructure work performed to create the additional clearance, while two bridges, Guilford Avenue and Harford Road, will be completely replaced.
Tracks will be lowered at locations in Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania to accommodate the rail cars, according to the release.
“Expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel has been a goal for decades because we know what it means for jobs and economic growth. Today, it’s becoming a reality because of the leadership of Governor Hogan and the hard work, vision, and collaboration of all the partners – MDOT, CSX, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Baltimore,” Slater said. “Freight rail is an essential link in the nation’s supply chain. This investment strengthens that link for generations to come and positions the Port of Baltimore as the primary hub for the East Coast and a major conduit for goods moving across America.”
According to the release, the expansion project allows for expected container growth at the port, a more cost-effective way of transporting goods, reducing traffic along super highways, and reducing emissions that deliver environmental benefits.
The cost, according to the release, accounts for $202.5 million from the state, $125 million from a federal Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant, and $113 million from CSX. Pennsylvania will contribute $22.5 million, and $3 million from federal highway formula dollars will be utilized in the project.
Bose said the INFRA grant will allow for growing local economies and create jobs while enhancing production at the Port of Baltimore.
According to the release, the port has created 15,300 jobs and nearly 140,000 jobs linked to the port.