CSX Nixes Howard Street Tunnel Expansion

In a surprise move, CSX Transportation has withdrawn its support for expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, a known aging freight bottleneck owned by the railroad which limits movement of freight westward. Following the withdrawal, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) officials have cancelled their request of $155 million in federal funds for the expansion.

The Howard Street Tunnel is 122 years old and its current height restrictions prohibit double-stacked containers from leaving the Port of Baltimore by rail to the midwest and other areas of the country. The recent widening of the Panama Canal and Port of Baltimore expansion have led to a significant increase in freight traffic coming through Baltimore, making the tunnel’s expansion especially important.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad — successor to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad — did not explain why it was turning its back on the project, which would have expanded the century-old tunnel to accommodate trains with shipping containers stacked two-high. …

“We determined that the Howard Street Tunnel project proposal no longer justifies the level of investment required from CSX and our public partners at this time,” the company said.

MDOT submitted a grant application for the project to the federal government last year, and planned to submit it again this year. However, MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation indicating that MDOT no longer plans to reapply for the funds. In his letter, Secretary Rahn called CSX’s actions:

both surprising and incredibly troubling, especially considering the countless hours and energy that have been expended by the Hogan Administration on this effort.