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The Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Port Administration (MDOT MPA) have released the environmental assessment (EA) for the reconstruction of the CSX-owned Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.
A public comment period on the assessment runs through March 30. The project consists of vertical clearance improvements along CSX's Interstate 95 corridor to allow trains transporting double-stacked containers to travel between Baltimore and Philadelphia.
When completed, the expanded tunnel will increase container capacity and business at the port, MDOT MPA officials said in a press release.
The primary obstacle to double-stack service along the corridor is the 126-year-old tunnel, a 1.7-mile railroad passage under the heart of Baltimore. With current vertical clearances up to 18 inches less than the 21 feet necessary for double-stack containers, the tunnel and 22 other clearance obstructions restrict the ability to move double-stack trains along the corridor, including to and from the Port of Baltimore, according to the EA report.
Following the public comment period, the project will require final approval under the National Environmental Policy Act before CSX can complete final engineering and obtain permits. Pending that approval, construction is expected to begin later this year.
"CSX applauds the efforts of the state of Maryland and the Federal Railroad Administration in conducting this thorough environmental assessment," said Brian Hammock, director of state relations for CSX. "This marks a key milestone in moving this critical infrastructure project forward."