The Maryland Transportation Authority is reviewing a request from CSX Transportation Corp. to lease about five acres under Interstate 95 to be used for construction of the train and truck depot that will serve the Port of Baltimore.

The land would allow CSX to expand the footprint of the 70-acre site near the Morrell Park neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore for its $90 million facility to transfer cargo containers from trains to trucks and vice versa. The state has promised to pay one-third of the cost.

The authority inherited the properties from the city when the elevated portions of I-95 and I-395 were built, said David Greene, MdTA director of strategic development.

"They are valuable," he said of the parcels.

The agency is conducting a review to determine whether it is in the best interest of the state to lease the wedge of land. An independent appraisal will be conducted to establish fair market value. A recommendation will be sent to the MdTA commissioners and then to the Federal Highway Administration for approval, said MdTA real estate manager Cathy Beasley Pope.

Greene said a deal with CSX is appealing because the railroad has its own security to protect the highway infrastructure and the new facility will bring more jobs to the city. The Federal Highway Administration allows states to use lease money for transportation purposes.

In its nine-page guide to airspace leasing, the Federal Highway Administration lays out restrictions, including a prohibition on the storage of flammable or hazardous materials or explosives.

MdTA has nine airspace leasing agreements that cover a variety of uses. For example, Potts & Callahan, Inc., a Baltimore excavation company, leases space under the highway to store dirt.

The new depot will streamline the process of transferring containers, allowing them to be double stacked on trains leaving and entering the city. The century-old Howard Street tunnel has height limitations that preclude double-stacking containers at Seagirt Marine Terminal.

The depot is part of CSX's National Gateway project that will help the port attract more massive cargo ships that use the Suez Canal and the expanded Panama Canal, which is expected to open in spring 2015.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com