Maryland’s U.S. senators asked CSX Corp. Thursday if it is considering reviving the long-awaited expansion of the aging Howard Street Tunnel.
“As the Port of Baltimore continues to see record growth both of international cargo and volume, a solution to the Howard Street Tunnel bottle-neck is more important than ever,” Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said in a letter to James M. Foote, president and CEO of CSX Corp.
“We hope that you agree and look forward to hearing from you regarding CSX’s plans for the Howard Street Tunnel project.”
The letter was also signed by the Democratic members of the state’s U.S. House delegation.
Last year, CSX withdrew its support for the expansion under downtown, causing state officials to cancel a request for $155 million in federal money for a project they hoped would be a boon for the port of Baltimore. The project would have expanded the century-old tunnel to accommodate trains with shipping containers stacked two-high.
In a statement at the time, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad — successor to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad — attributed the decision to its new operating plan, which involves reviewing “use and development of existing and planned infrastructure projects.” It said it had “determined that the Howard Street Tunnel proposal no longer justifies the level of investment required from CSX and our public partners at this time.”
But CSX pledged “to keep an open mind about the project” and to continue its dialogue with lawmakers about possibly reviving it, the letter said.
The company said in a statement Thursday that it is doing just that.
Since CSX met with delegation members several months ago, the statement said it has “spent considerable time analyzing the opportunity, meeting with key stakeholders and exploring multiple options, including the appropriate level of CSX’s investment. We will remain in regular contact with members of the Maryland delegation as these thoughtful and deliberate discussions continue.”
Recent press reports “indicate that there may be some favorable movement on the part of CSX to revisit the project,” the senators’ letter said.
In July, the Journal of Commerce reported that CSX appeared to be rethinking its decision to pull back on the project.
The company said Thursday that its focus “has always been to find a path forward, if possible, that meets the long-term needs of the Port, the State and CSX.”