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Ellicott City North Tunnel Project Breaks Ground

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on June 24 broke ground on the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan’s North Tunnel stormwater conveyance project. This is the largest public works project in Howard County’s history.

“We worked tirelessly with our partners to create and implement an effective, transparent plan for Ellicott City that will keep people safe and preserve the historic nature of our beloved town. One of seven major public works projects that comprise our Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan, this transformational tunnel will not only enhance our historic town’s resiliency and the community’s protection, but it will also be the single largest public works project in Howard County’s history,” Ball said.

“The North Tunnel project is an integral part of County Executive Ball’s Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan, which serves as a model for future climate sustainability efforts. Today’s groundbreaking is a testament to the resilience of the Old Ellicott City community and the commitment of federal, state and local partners to ensuring a vibrant future for this historic district for years to come,” U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said.

“With climate change contributing to a greater frequency and intensity of severe storms and floods, the North Tunnel project is a key mitigation strategy that Howard County has chosen to implement, and the Department is grateful to oversee” said Yosef Kebede, Director, Department of Public Works.

Once complete, the 18-foot diameter, approximately one-mile-long subterranean North Tunnel will have the ability to move 26,000 gallons of water per second from the West End area of Ellicott City, all the way to the Patapsco River. The tunnel will reduce the risk of flash flooding by intercepting water and diverting it underground and away from Main Street.

“Today marks a pivotal moment for Ellicott City, a community rich in history. This groundbreaking for the Ellicott City North Tunnel underscores the importance of proactive mitigation efforts in preserving our historic towns and the power of federal, state, and local partnerships,” said Russell Strickland, Secretary, Maryland Department of Emergency Management.

The work will be executed primarily using a tunnel boring machine (TBM) that is roughly 300 feet in length and can carve through solid granite. The TBM will be overseen by a joint venture between Kiewit and Traylor Bros., Inc., experts in the tunnel excavation field.

“Our Kiewit-Traylor team is proud to partner with Howard County to bring our breadth of resources and tunneling expertise to construct the North Tunnel and realize the vision of the Safe and Sound Program for the Ellicott City community and future generations,” said Matt Swinton, Senior Vice President and District Manager, Kiewit.

Also, as is tradition and good luck to name a TBM, much like a sailing vessel, Ball hosted a naming campaign for Howard County’s TBM earlier this year, polling the public to choose from the following six names: Ellicott Drills, Ellicott Excavator, Granite, Granite Grinder, Hudson and Rocky. During today’s event, Ball announced that the public has spoken and with nearly 800 votes cast in total, the winning TBM name is “Rocky.”

Weather permitting, Rocky is expected to have the North Tunnel excavated and substantially completed by the fall of 2027.

“As we break ground on the Extended North Tunnel Flood Project, we are reminded of Maryland’s leadership in climate change mitigation and resilience. We are the second most vulnerable state to climate change impacts after Florida, and Maryland has set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy, and further mitigate climate change. But fighting climate change is not just about mitigation. It also requires investments in resilience. This crucial project was made possible through $27 million in state grants and $28.5 million in state loans. I am especially proud because these loans were made possible because of the Resiliency and Revolving Loan program. Together, we are building a safer, more resilient future for Ellicott City and all of Maryland,” said Maryland State Senator Katie Fry Hester, District 9.

“The North Tunnel will be an integral piece of the county’s Safe and Sound Project to mitigate future flooding in Ellicott City. This massive, 18-foot tunnel will be transformational in moving tens of thousands of gallons of rainwater away from Main Street directly into the Patapsco River. As state partners on this effort, we look forward to continuing to work with county leaders to ensure that this project has the resources and support it needs to safeguard the future of Ellicott City,” said Maryland State Senator and Howard County Delegation Co-Chair Clarence Lam.

“The North Tunnel is a game changer for the safety of the Historic Ellicott City community,” said Maryland State Delegate Courtney Watson. “I am so grateful to Dr. Ball and Governor Moore for being partners in the funding of this tunnel, which will ensure the longevity of this historic town for generations to come.”

“This milestone North Tunnel project carries with it the hopes, fears, and high expectations of the people of this old town,” said Liz Walsh, Councilmember, Howard County Council. “Today is an important step toward delivering on the promises made — and trust restored. Thank you to our local, state, and federal partners, as well as to the taxpayers of Howard County and the state of Maryland for funding this effort. Let’s dig!”

Shortly after taking office in December of 2018, Ball unveiled his Ellicott City Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan designed to provide a comprehensive solution for flood control in historic Ellicott City, following recent catastrophic floods in 2011, 2016 and 2018. Ball tasked his administration with identifying creative funding options that leverage strong local, state, and federal partnerships.

In addition to the North Tunnel, Ball’s plan calls for five stormwater retention ponds (H-7, Quaker Mill, H-4, NC-3 and T-1), the Maryland Avenue Culverts water conveyance project, enhanced stream inspections and debris removal following storms, an Outdoor Tone Alert System, high-ground signage and access points, and drainage improvements throughout the watershed. To date, the H-7 and Quaker Mill ponds have been completed, enhanced stream inspections and debris removal are initiated following each storm, and the Outdoor Tone Alert System and high-ground signage and access points have been installed.

Together, the H-7 and Quaker Mill ponds have the capacity to collect and control the release of seven and a half million gallons of water during a storm. Upon the completion of the H-4 Pond in fall of 2025, weather permitting, the pond will add another five and a half million gallons of water capacity. The three ponds together will have the ability to retain approximately 13 million gallons of water during severe storms, which is equivalent to a football field filled with water, 30 feet deep.

The NC-3 Pond is currently in the final design and permitting stage, the T-1 Pond is in the planning and preliminary design stage, and the Maryland Avenue Culverts project is in final design.

“BGE is proud to support Ellicott City’s Tunnel Project – a key part of Howard County Executive Calvin Ball’s Safe and Sound flood mitigation plan. This project is a great example of the strong partnership between BGE and Howard County,” said Carim Khouzami, BGE President and CEO. “Through this collaboration with the County and Century Engineering, we will improve Ellicott City for both residents and visitors.”

“The North Tunnel Project is a vital investment in the resilience and safety of our community. By diverting floodwaters away from Main Street, we can significantly reduce the risk of the types of devastating floods that have plagued the area for years,” said Julia Sanger, President, Ellicott City Partnership.

“The Phoenix has served this community since 1979 and the building at 8049 Main has stood and evolved for over 150 years,” said Mark Hemmis, Owner, Phoenix Upper Main. “The floods served to remind me that my fundamental obligation to this community is predicated upon providing a safe environment for our team and our community. We could no longer do that at our original location, yet the Phoenix belongs to Ellicott City. The Phoenix belongs to Main Street. And the Phoenix does not exist without this community that we serve. We are grateful for the opportunity to remain on Main Street and support the extraordinary measures being taken to ensure our community continues to remain safe for this generation and for the generations that will come after to love Ellicott City as we have.”

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