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Howard County Times
Howard County

Public meeting planned next week for Ellicott City north tunnel project

A public meeting on the latest developments in the Ellicott City flood mitigation project is planned for next week.

The meeting, hosted by Howard County’s Department of Public Works, is being held to discuss the extended north tunnel project. It’s set for 6 p.m., July 6, in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City.

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The meeting will include an overview of tunnel design followed by an open discussion; county staff and the project’s design consultant, McMillen Jacobs Associates, will participate and answer questions, according to a news release.

Heavy rains in 2016 and 2018 caused major flooding in Ellicott City’s historic district, leaving behind three dead and millions of dollars in destruction.

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Beginning in 2018, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball put an extensive flood mitigation plan in place, the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan. Estimated to cost between $113 million and $140 million, the plan includes the creation of several dry ponds, installation of a mile-long underground tunnel and the demolition of four Main Street buildings to provide space for the creation of a new culvert.

Construction of an extended north tunnel, at an estimated cost of $75 million, is considered to be the largest and most impactful part of the project, Ball said.

“Once complete, this pivotal project will carry 26,000 gallons of stormwater per second away from streets and foundations in Old Ellicott City and the West End and directly into the Patapsco River, protecting life, property, businesses and homes,” Ball said in a news release.

“The extended north tunnel is one of seven flood mitigation projects, including the Quaker Mill and H7 Ponds, which are currently under construction and expected to be completed next year,” Ball said.

History of flooding

Old Ellicott City has a long history of flooding due to its natural topography, location in a floodplain, and proximity to the Hudson, Tiber and New Cut branches of the Patapsco River. The town is built on granite that funnels water through the community to the Patapsco.

Thirty significant floods have been recorded in the area, including one in 1768 before the community’s official founding in 1772, according to research by the Howard County Historical Society.

As Ellicott City marks its 250th anniversary of its founding this year, work is underway to preserve the historic town from more devastating flooding in the future.

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Improvement projects have included creating a flood mitigation pond at the intersection of Route 40 and Rogers Avenue to increase water retention, retrofitting the existing Quaker Mill Pond on Rogers Avenue, and constructing culverts at Maryland Avenue.

Additional culverts to carry the Tiber River under the road at 8534 and 8600 Main St., and creation of a berm, or soil barrier, at 8552 Main St., were planned, but according to Shaina A. Hernandez, senior adviser for policy in the Office of the Howard County Executive, they are no longer being constructed.

Extended north tunnel

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Nearly 65% completed, the extended north tunnel project design features an approximately 5,800-foot-long, 18-foot-diameter tunnel spanning from the north side of Frederick Road, about 500 feet east of Papillon Drive, to the Patapsco River shoreline north of Lot B, according to the news release.

The project will also include surface work at Lot F and near the intersection of Rogers Avenue and Main Street.

Work is expected to start later this year.

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