After the ground-breaking ceremony in Baltimore, in the US on 29 November, work can now begin on expanding the cross-section of the 2.7km Howard Street Tunnel to enable double-stacking of rail-borne shipping containers.
Governor Larry Hogan and transportation officials participated in a gold-colored shovel symbolic excavation which signifies the end of seven years of tough negotiations between the State of Maryland, tunnel owner CSX and the Federal Railroad Administration. The event was possible after reaching the agreement on how to split the US$466m project costs: Maryland will fund US$202.5m, a federal grant will fund a further US$125m, and CSX and Pennsylvania will finance US$113m and US$22.5m respectively. Federal highway formula funding will provide another US$3 million.
Over many years, the 126-year-old tunnel’s relatively small cross-section has made a bottleneck, hampering the port of Baltimore’s ability to handle the freight volumes required to compete with East Coast rivals. An expanded tunnel will enable double-stacked shipping containers to travel to and from the port, assisting it to become an East Coast hub and a conduit for the goods’ transfer over the country. Moreover, it is anticipated to assist improve regional growth and create 6,550 construction jobs, as well as an extra 7,300 jobs from the boosted business at the port.
Making the essential clearance is supposed to be done by breaking out the tunnel crown by 18in (457mm). But the work – which also contains improvements at 21 other locations, comprising three bridges – is going to be done during the rail service operation.