BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Howard Street Tunnel Project received a "Finding of No Significant Impact" as part of a review under the National Environmental Policy Act, according to a statement from Gov. Larry Hogan's office Wednesday.
The designation is the final NEPA approval for the infrastructure project, which will expand the 126-year-old Howard Street Tunnel to accommodate double-stacked container trains. With this approval, CSX, the tunnel's owner, can finalize engineering and obtain permits. Construction will occur in phases and is expected to begin later this year.
The project has major implications for the Port of Baltimore. An expanded tunnel would be able to increase the number of containers the Port of Baltimore brings in by at least 25 percent annually.
For years, the Howard Street Tunnel reconstruction was estimated to cost between $1 billion and $4 billion, with significant disruption to surrounding communities. But by using advances in construction technology, CSX and Maryland determined the community impact will be minimal and estimate the cost to be $466 million, including $202.5 million from Maryland, $125 million in a federal Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant, $113 million from CSX, $22.5 million from Pennsylvania, and $3 million in federal highway formula funding.
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. Dredging was recently completed for a second, 50-foot-deep berth at the Seagirt Marine Terminal, which is managed under a public-private partnership between MDOT MPA and Ports America Chesapeake, according to the statement. Four additional Neo-Panamax cranes will arrive this summer and will be operational by the end of the year, giving the port the ability to serve two supersized ships simultaneously.
Double stacking capability at the Howard Street Tunnel will help the Port accommodate the container growth that will come from this added capacity, according to the statement. The tunnel project also will generate 6,550 construction jobs, while an additional 7,300 jobs would be created due to 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 fewer emissions, the statement said.
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