The Maryland Port Authority has launched a federally approved Environmental Assessment as part of plans to reconstruct the Howard Street Tunnel to allow for double-stacked intermodal container trains to and from the Port of Baltimore.
In a statement, the Port said double stacking allows two shipping containers stacked on top of each other, and this project will increase TEU capacity as well as create thousands of jobs.
The Environmental Assessment will begin on 1 March and run until 30 March and will allow the public to submit questions and comments.
Governor Larry Hogan said, “The project to allow double stack trains in the Howard Street Tunnel has been one of our administration’s top priorities.
“As the Port of Baltimore and the international maritime industry continue to bounce back from the impacts of COVID-19, this project will increase business at the Port, generate thousands of new jobs and spur growth for the entire state economy.
“I want to thank MDOT, CSX, our congressional delegation and all our project partners for advancing this critical project.”
Construction on the CSX-owned tunnel will begin later in 2021 after the conclusion of the Environmental Assessment and pending approval from local government.
The project consists of vertical clearance improvements at the Howard Street Tunnel and 22 other locations between Baltimore and Philadelphia, the Port Authority.
The existing Howard Street Tunnel will be reconstructed to provide an additional 18 inches of clearance within the tunnel.
There are three additional bridges in Baltimore City that require superstructure work: the North Avenue bridge will be modified and the Guilford Avenue and Harford Road bridges will be fully replaced.
Other locations in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania only require track lowering beneath the structures.
With its supersized cranes and deep container berth, the Port of Baltimore is one of only a few East Coast ports that can accommodate some of the biggest ships in the world.
Height restrictions within the Howard Street Tunnel prevent shipment of double-stacked containers by rail to and from the Port and up and down the East Coast.
Double stacking capabilities at the Howard Street Tunnel will allow the Port to handle 160,000 additional containers annually. It would also generate 6,550 construction jobs while an additional 7,300 jobs would be created because of the increased business.
Double stacking also will provide a more cost-effective way to transport freight by rail compared to trucks, reducing congestion along the I-95 corridor and delivering environmental benefits with less emissions.
Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Greg Slater sain, “ The Howard Street Tunnel project highlights how critical infrastructure investments can benefit the entire region.
“This partnership between state, local and federal agencies and the private sector will enhance the regional supply chain and allow the Port to deliver ship-to-front door service.
“The result will be more jobs, an increase in Port capacity and a significant boost to the state economy.”
MDOT Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle explained the double-stack capabilities was a critical issue for the Port.
“Our container business is seeing a remarkable turnaround from earlier COVID-19 impacts, and a major reason for that has been ecommerce because of our close proximity to so many distribution, fulfillment, and sorting centres,” Doyle said.
“The Howard Street Tunnel will seamlessly complement our e-commerce capabilities and the ability to doublestack trains will open up opportunities for more business to the Midwest markets and grow jobs at the Port.”
Brian Hammock, director of state relations for CSX also commented, “CSX applauds the efforts of the State of Maryland and the Federal Railroad Administration in conducting a thorough environmental assessment.
“This marks a key milestone in moving this critical infrastructure project forward.”