Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced changes to the Ellicott City Safe & Sound plan that would extend the North Tunnel, eliminating the need for the previously planned flood mitigation projects for the West End of Ellicott City. The extended North Tunnel would start around 8800 Frederick Road and run approximately 5,000 feet to the Patapsco River. The current design begins in Lot F of Ellicott City.
In a 2016 Ellicott City flood scenario, the extended tunnel is anticipated to reduce water on the street from approximately 3-and-a-half feet to less than half a foot, compared to the current plan. The extended North Tunnel also negates the need for any building removal on the West End, saving at least nine buildings previously slated for demolition. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“Our goal for the Safe and Sound plan continues to focus on solutions that will keep Ellicott City safe and thriving for generations to come. The extension of the North Tunnel has four major benefits – it is anticipated to reduce water levels, eliminate other projects, save homes and historical properties, and is anticipated to be cost neutral,” said Ball. “This is a significant change to our plan but one that achieves the goals we have always set out to achieve – less water on the street, fewer buildings that need to be removed, and a safer town for all.”
The extended North Tunnel should be cost neutral with the elimination of the West End projects. The cost of the North Tunnel is anticipated to be funded by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan program operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Howard County was invited to apply to the program earlier this year.
Approximately 10 easements will be needed to complete the extended North Tunnel project, with only three of those easements a result of the extension. The extended tunnel will be primarily constructed well below the ground surface, outside of utility clearances, and away from existing buildings. Water will enter the tunnel in at least two locations – at the primary intake structure located on the north side of the 8800 Block of Frederick Road and one in Parking Lot F. These entry points will capture storm flows and direct them into the tunnel where the water will then be conveyed below ground by gravity to the Patapsco River. The County’s goal is to begin construction in 2022, pending the availability of funding, the receipt of applicable permits, and authorization from CSX.
“Today’s announcement is a perfect example of how hard the County is working to balance the critical need for flood mitigation with the desire to preserve as much of the town’s history as possible,” said Maryland State Senator Katie Fry Hester. “The incredible business owners, families, and community members who live and work here are among the most resilient I’ve seen, and I’m so proud to advocate for them in the General Assembly.”
“The community of residents and businesses in Ellicott City have been through so many challenges, and it’s so vital that we continue to advocate and encourage the best possible solutions to keep our town safe,” said Maryland State Delegate Courtney Watson.
“I am so thankful for the critical eye that led the County to this fantastic result, and relieved,” said Howard County Council Chair Liz Walsh. “Twelve homes demolished in West End and parts further west out Frederick Road was too many. The series of smaller projects now avoided would have left behind more fragmented, battered remains of what now will survive: generations-old homes, the soaring trees banking that meandering stream, the ancient burial grounds. This revised plan does so much more to honor Ellicott City’s shared history.”
While designing and researching projects on the West End, the Department of Public Works identified multiple challenges, including utility placement and topography. At the same time with the federal Section 106 process underway, there were additional concerns about the need to remove buildings. The extended North Tunnel eliminates the need for the 8777 culvert project, the 8600 culvert project, and the 8552 berm/bypass project that were originally planned to alleviate flooding in the West End of Ellicott City.
“Saving Earlougher’s Tavern and several other significant structures on Ellicott City’s West End isn’t just a victory for history – it’s a victory for the future of this community,” said Nick Redding, President/CEO of Preservation Maryland. “Ellicott City’s rich and diverse history is what makes it unique and unlike any other place in America – and the preservation of these buildings will help to further protect that cherished character. We’re pleased to see this positive next step and are eager to hear the roar of machines begin work on the tunnel that’s making this preservation possible.”
“We owe it to ourselves and our ancestors to do everything in our power to protect the future Old Ellicott City,” said Angie Tersiguel, owner of Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant in Ellicott City. “This expanded tunnel project protects the very things we don’t want changed, our heritage, our homes, our neighborhood, and our community. I remain truly excited and look forward to the continued progress of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan.”
Watch the video of the announcement here: