CSX to continue Howard Street Tunnel discussions

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CSX train L034 approaches the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore in November 2011.
Michael T. Burkhart
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Officials from CSX Transportation and Maryland emerged from a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday saying they will continue to discuss expanding the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore.

CSX stunned Maryland officials in November when the railroad said it would pull out of a long-sought clearance project. 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.

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, representatives of Gov. Larry Hogan, and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh met with CSX’s acting CEO, James Foote, on Tuesday. Maryland officials had requested the meeting after CSX backed out of the project.

Sen. Ben Cardin told The Baltimore Sun that Foote “agreed to have an open mind” about the tunnel. Officials at the meeting also said CSX would reconsider its decision.

But the railroad did not characterize the meeting in the same terms.

“CSX had a productive discussion about the Howard Street Tunnel with the Maryland Congressional delegation and representatives from the offices of Gov. Hogan and Mayor Pugh,” a CSX spokesman said. “CSX appreciates the partnership we have developed with the state, city, and port and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with them about our plans moving forward.”

Last month, then-CEO E. Hunter Harrison was critical of the project.

Harrison told a Nov. 29 investor conference that he’s philosophically opposed to receiving government money and that the East Coast has too many ports vying for traffic.

“When you start taking their money, they want to try to tell you how to run your company – and they ought be able to,” Harrison said.

“Nobody wants to be told their port’s not the superport. But somebody’s got to wake up to that,” Harrison said. “And sometimes it’s got to be us by saying we can’t invest in that with shareholder money because it’s not a good investment.”

CSX would not say whether Foote agrees with the assessment of Harrison, who died on Dec. 16 at the age of 73.

The $425 million Howard Street Tunnel clearance project was envisioned as a public-private partnership that would have relied on a combination of federal, state, and railroad funding.

CSX had been prepared to spend $145 million, while Maryland had earmarked $125 million for the project. Maryland officials in December applied for a $155-million federal Fastlane grant, then reapplied this summer after the Trump administration changed the program requirements.

In 2016 CSX said that the project, if funded, would remove additional trucks from highways and create more than $640 million in benefits to 25 eastern states.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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