Maryland wants explanation for CSX Howard Street Tunnel decision

Congressional delegation invites Harrison to Capitol Hill
RELATED TOPICS: CSX | EAST | OPERATIONS | POLITICS
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WASHINGTON — Maryland’s entire congressional delegation has written to CSX Transportation CEO E. Hunter Harrison, asking him to explain the railroad’s decision to drop out of a partnership to raise clearances in the Howard Street Tunnel.

On Nov. 1, in response to media inquiries, CSX confirmed that it no longer considered the long-sought tunnel project in Baltimore a priority. The tunnel is a barrier to double-stack service to and from the Port of Baltimore, as well as on CSX’s Interstate 95 Corridor linking New Jersey and Florida.

CSX had sought – and won – state and federal political support for a jointly funded $425 million clearance project. The state and CSX had committed nearly two-thirds of the money and had applied for a $155-million federal grant.

“The long-term, bipartisan, state, federal and local financial support for this project is a reflection of the importance we have all placed on the need for these improvements,” the delegation wrote to Harrison. “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.”

Harrison was invited to a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, along with officials from Maryland and the Port of Baltimore.

The Port of Baltimore can handle the larger container ships that can take advantage of the expanded Panama Canal. But officials fear the port will be left behind East Coast competitors without access to double-stack rail service.

CSX did not immediately respond to an email request for comment regarding the letter.

Late on Wednesday, CSX responded to concerns raised by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

“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,” spokesman Christopher Smith says.

“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. This business decision is in no way a reflection on the leadership of Gov. Hogan, who has supported this initiative to the greatest degree possible on behalf of the businesses and citizens of Maryland. CSX appreciates the partnership we have developed with the State and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with our partners about our new operating plan.”

The text of the delegation’s letter to Harrison is below:

Mr. E. Hunter Harrison
President and Chief Executive Officer
CSX Transportation, Inc.
500 Water Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202

We invite you to join us for an in-depth discussion on Capitol Hill to explain why the CSX Corporation intends to cancel the Howard Street Tunnel infrastructure improvement project. We will invite representatives from the State of Maryland and Baltimore City to join us at the meeting.

The Port of Baltimore is one of the only East Coast ports that can accommodate the Panamax ships moving through the newly widened Panama Canal. With freight volumes expected to increase dramatically over the coming decades, it is critical that necessary infrastructure and safety improvements are made to protect the public and prevent a rail bottleneck that impacts the movement of commercial goods up and down the East Coast and from Baltimore to Ohio.

The long-term, bipartisan, state, federal and local financial support for this project is a reflection of the importance we have all placed on the need for these improvements.

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. Please be prepared to provide an overview of changes you have made to CSX operations in the State of Maryland, what changes you will implement in the near future, what, if any, assistance you anticipate requesting from state, local and federal governments regarding these changes and any other federal issues that are important to CSX such as limiting truck trailer size, federal tax issues and other priority public-private rail improvement projects around the nation.

Our staff will follow up with your office to schedule a meeting in the very near future. We look forward to a fruitful and candid discussion.

Sincerely,
Chris Van Hollen
U.S. Senator
Benjamin L. Cardin
U.S. Senator
Steny H. Hoyer
Member of Congress
Elijah E. Cummings
Member of Congress
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger​​​​​​​
Member of Congress
John P. Sarbanes ​​​​​​​
Member of Congress
Andy Harris, M.D.
Member of Congress
John K. Delaney
Member of Congress
Anthony G. Brown
Member of Congress
Jamie Raskin​​​​​​​
Member of Congress
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