Well, it looks like Hunter Harrison strikes again!
Heard from the Baltimore Sun that the Howard Street Tunnel will be modified in the coming years in order to fit double-stack trains. Cost is expected to be only $425 million, a lot cheaper compared to the previous estimate of $1-3 billion.
So now the B&P Tunnel shouldn't need to be built to handle double stack trains, and hopefully this will lower the cost of that project.
If CSX gets the FASTLANE grant, or gets the funding assembled via other sources in the next several years, that could affect the planning for the B&P tunnel replacement. Since the proposed alternative is to bore out 4 separate tunnels, one option for future capacity protection would be to bore out just 1 or 2 tunnels for Plate H doublestack clearances and the others for smaller clearances. Or drop any plans for Plate H entirely. How much that would reduce the cost? Not a clue.
However, CSX rebuilding the Howard Street Tunnel locks in the tunnel for continued freight train use for many decades to come. Which means downtown Baltimore remains at risk of a derailment and tunnel fire. And that the tunnel could not be repurposed for use by the light rail line which has been suggested and considered in the past. With Governor Hogan in charge, not going to give any thought to that angle.
For now, he has pulled the plug on the Howard Street tunnel project. Please allow a brief
CSX Pulls Support for Baltimore Tunnel Renovation
Port Dealt Blow in Efforts to Win Neopanamax Business
Federal and state lawmakers from Maryland expressed frustration at a decision from CSX Corp. to withdraw its support to fund the renovation of the Howard Street Tunnel near the Port of Baltimore, dealing another blow to the long-awaited project that would allow double-stack trains.
The 122-year-old tunnel is too short in certain spots to handle the intermodal trains unless they’re single stacked, particularly in the westbound direction.The total cost of about $425 million would’ve been split between CSX, the Maryland Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Upon the news, Maryland withdrew its request for a $155 million federal grant to fund the project.
With his arrival, Harrison brought his Precision Scheduled Railroad concept, significantly revamping the intermodal network by eliminating certain underutilized lanes and emphasizing other high-demand corridors. In his cost-conscious efforts, the Howard Street Tunnel project became expendable.
“Given the operating changes that CSX’s new leadership team has made over the last several months, and upon an updated evaluation, 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,” CSX spokesman Christopher Smith said. “Intermodal is an important part of CSX’s business and we are committed to supporting the freight rail needs of our customers and the Port of Baltimore through frequent, reliable, on-dock service.”Maryland’s congressional delegation, however, sent a letter to the railroad expressing disappointment with the decision.
“We seek to understand how a project that has been a top priority for CSX, multiple local, state and federal representatives and the business community for many years — to the exclusion of other local needs and projects — is suddenly no longer of importance to CSX,” the delegation stated in the Nov. 1 letter.
I'm not sure if this is a ploy to extract more money from the federal government and the state of Maryland, but we'll have to take this seriously for now.
1) How will this effect the proposed B&P tunnel? While very little freight moves through it currently, there may be a need to accommodate future service by another operator.
2) Upon hearing that CSX withdrew support, Maryland withdrew its funding request. Can they still request the funding and use it to assist the Amtrak tunnel projects?
If anyone ever doubts the uncooperative nature of CSX, they need to look no further than this plan (which was split three ways) that may sabotage their OWN future for years to come.