Fort McHenry Tunnel

The Fort McHenry Tunnel is the 7,200-foot-long 8-lane tunnel complex that carries Interstate I-95 under Baltimore Harbor, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Article index with internal links:

Fort McHenry Tunnel Opens to Traffic
Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Funding
Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Design
Plan View of Fort McHenry Tunnel Area
Sunken Tube Tunnel Construction
Canton/Seagirt Disposal Site and Seagirt Marine Terminal
Cut-and-cover Tunnel Approach Construction
Mechanical and Electrical Systems
Fort McHenry Tunnel Photo Articles
Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Documents
Fort McHenry Tunnel - External Links
Historical Links for Fort McHenry and the "Star Spangled Banner"


Opening day for the Baltimore Harbor 7,200-foot-long 8-lane Fort McHenry Tunnel, Saturday November 23, 1985. Ceremonies were held on the freeway between the east approach portals and the toll plaza. Notice the four tubes and the massive ventilation building. Extra-bright lighting is used in the first few hundred yards of the inbound portals. The Fort McHenry Tunnel cost $750 million to build, and construction took 5 1/2 years. It is the widest underwater tunnel in the world. This project required over 3.5 million cubic yards of soil excavation, over 900,000 cubic yards of concrete, and over 100 million pounds of structural steel.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Construction
Roads to the Future article with 62 photos from 1983 to 1985.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Opening Day Photos
Roads to the Future article with 30 photos on opening day.

Fort McHenry Tunnel Opens to Traffic

The new Baltimore is a nice place to live, but you would not want to visit - not if you are inching through the grimy Harbor Tunnel, that is. For interstate travelers, the dread begins miles away as they steel themselves for the maddening Harbor Tunnel bottleneck that often forms miles outside of Baltimore. But all that's about to change. Travelers on I-95 who scarcely glimpse Baltimore's restored town houses, its sparkling Inner Harbor or the growing downtown skyline will soon see a new side of the city as they whisk through its gleaming new Fort McHenry Tunnel. The new eight-lane tunnel - a massive $750 million engineering project 5 years in the making - will open today after a 3:00 PM ribbon cutting, lengthy ceremonies and special motorcades, just in time for the Thanksgiving travel crush. Dozens of state and federal dignitaries are expected to be on hand for the opening ceremonies today to claim credit for the largest underwater road project in the history of the Interstate highway system, one that came in under budget and almost on time.
The above is an excerpt from "I-95 Drivers Get Remedy for Harbor Headache - Baltimore's Fort McHenry Tunnel's Debut Today is Expected to Ease Bottlenecks", The Washington Post, November 23, 1985.

The newspaper article goes on to cite the details of the project and its importance to the I-95 corridor. The first 300 yards of each inbound portal simulates daylight with high intensity lighting and white pavement, eliminating the "dark hole" effect on older tunnels and providing enough transition for motorists' eyes to adjust from daylight to the lighting level inside the tunnel. The photo at the top clearly shows the feature. The entire tunnel is monitored by 64 television monitors in a central control room that also has controls for air quality and traffic signals. The original cost estimate for the tunnel project was $825 million, so it can be seen that the final cost was significantly less. Good project management indeed.

The article mentions that the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, opened in 1957, would get a major rehabilitation spanning 2 years, starting in Spring 1986, costing $40 million, with each tube being closed for a year as a new roadway is laid, lighting improved, and wall tiles replaced. The opening of the Fort McHenry Tunnel did indeed greatly relieve traffic on the Harbor Tunnel, and this Harbor Tunnel rehabilitation project did get constructed, and the result was a well-lighted modern-looking tunnel with modernized mechanical, ventilation and traffic control systems. The name of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel did not change, even though it was no longer the only harbor tunnel (as its generic name implies) in Baltimore after the Fort McHenry Tunnel opened about a mile away. The whole Harbor Tunnel Thruway was designated I-895 a couple years later, the even-prefix 3-digit Interstate route designation being an appropriate number for this highway which is a parallel alternate to I-95 in the Baltimore area. Previously, the 17-mile-long Harbor Tunnel Thruway did not have a route number, although it did have trailblazer "TO I-95" signs. In 2004, the Fort McHenry Tunnel carried vehicle counts of over 117,000 average annual daily traffic (AADT) and the Harbor Tunnel carries over 70,000 AADT. These volumes are both well within the traffic engineering designs of each facility. In January 2000, four-lane reconstruction was completed on the originally-two-lane 3.5-mile-long section of the I-695 Baltimore Beltway near Sparrows Point, making the entire eastern side of the Beltway four-lane Interstate standards, doubling the traffic capacity of the original outer harbor crossing, the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which presently carries over 32,000 AADT. In other words, with 12 Interstate lanes across the inner harbor and 4 Interstate lanes across the outer harbor, the Baltimore area will continue to have adequate cross-harbor highway capacity for well into the future. Most urban freeways with 8 lanes can handle 140,000 AADT without major congestion, and for 4 lanes, the figure is about 70,000 AADT.

Maryland Transportation Authority links to Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, and Francis Scott Key Bridge. At each of these crossings, the toll for a two-axle vehicle is $2.00; each additional axle is $2.00. In April 1999, the Authority unveiled its electronic-toll-collection system, a state-of-the-art method for collecting tolls that benefits motorists and the environment, for commuters who use the Baltimore-area crossings. The E-ZPass system allows commuters the ease of paying their tolls electronically. MdTA Ft. McHenry Tunnel Fact Sheet. MdTA Baltimore Harbor Tunnel Fact Sheet. MdTA Francis Scott Key Bridge Fact Sheet.

About the Maryland Transportation Authority: Excerpt (blue text):
Since 1971, the Maryland Transportation Authority has been responsible for managing, operating and improving the State's toll facilities, as well as for financing new revenue-producing transportation projects. The Authority's seven facilities - a turnpike, two tunnels and four bridges - help keep both private and commercial traffic moving in Maryland. All of our projects and services are funded through tolls paid by customers who use our facilities.

Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Funding

The I-95 construction through the City of Baltimore qualified for and received 90% federal-aid funding from the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, for design, right-of-way and construction, with the remaining 10% coming from state funds. This 90/10 funding ratio was standard for all of the Interstate highways that were built after the 1956 federal highway act that established the Interstate Highway System, and these Interstate highways were without toll collection facilities, and were toll-free. Due to the projected very high cost of the Fort McHenry Tunnel project, where even the state's 10% share was estimated at over $80 million (and that was in late-1970s dollars), the state of Maryland and the City of Baltimore asked the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) fund the whole 100% of the project's cost, and to allow tolls to be collected via a toll plaza built immediately east of the tunnel, with the toll revenue designated to pay off the 10% share in installments. The FHWA granted this funding request, and specified that the tunnel would become toll-free after the state share was paid off via the tolls. In later years after the state share was refunded to FHWA, the state applied to have the toll collection authorization extended, because if I-95 became toll-free, then the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (I-895) and the Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695) would also have to become toll-free in order to avoid causing a traffic imbalance on the three Baltimore Harbor highway crossings. Since the construction and improvements to the Harbor Tunnel Thruway and the Key Bridge have been funded with state-issued toll revenue bonds, with no highway federal-aid utilized, it was not feasible for the state to make those facilities toll-free, since a considerable amount of the bond debt still exists and remains to be retired over time.

It would be nice to have the toll plaza removed from I-95 in Baltimore, since it causes traffic congestion during peak hours, but it looks like it is here to stay, although electronic toll collection through E-ZPass does help the traffic conditions somewhat, and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) is planning to build high-speed open road tolling whereby vehicles with E-ZPass could pass through the toll collection area at full highway speed on freeway-standard roadways.

Since MdTA utilizes "pooled toll financing" on its 7 highway toll facilities, whereby the toll revenues from all of them are pooled to properly fund the construction and operation of the whole system, it is highly unlikely that the Harbor Tunnel Thruway and Key Bridge tolls will ever be removed. While it may or may not be "fair" to have tolls on the Fort McHenry Tunnel, given that its construction received 90% federal-aid Interstate funding, the city and state will do everything in their power to keep the tolls in place.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Vital Facts
Length 1.7 miles
Highway class Freeway, built to Interstate highway standards
Highway route Interstate I-95
Water body crossed Baltimore Harbor and shipping channel
Total number of lanes 8 lanes
Number of tubes 4
Number of lanes per tube 2 lanes
Roadway width per tube 26 feet from curb to curb
Roadway vertical clearance 16 feet
Speed limit Variable up to 55 mph
Toll facilities Electronic tolling plus cash lanes, toll plaza in Canton
Toll $2 for 2-axle vehicle, commuter discounts available
Pavement type Asphalt (bituminous concrete)
Administrative agency for design, right-of-way and construction Interstate Division for Baltimore City (IDBC)
Owner since opening Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA)
Design Prime Consultant Sverdrup & Parcel and Parsons, Quade, Brinckerhoff & Douglas (joint venture)
Initial estimate of cost total for design, right-of-way and construction $825 million
Contracting method Agency public bid contracting, 11 construction contracts
Construction Began May 7, 1980
Trench Tunnel Prime Contractor Kiewit/Raymond/Tidewater (K-R-T)
West Approach Prime Contractor Lane Construction Corporation
East Approach Prime Contractor S. J. Groves & Sons Co.
Mechanical and Electrical Prime Contractor Howard P. Foley Co.
Facility target date for completion Early 1985
Final cost total for design, right-of-way and construction $750 million
Funding method 100% Interstate highway federal-aid, with 10% to be repaid by state from toll revenue
Facility opened to traffic November 23, 1985
Traffic Volumes as of December 2005 Average about 118,000 vehicles per day, 9% large trucks

Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Design

The Fort McHenry Tunnel Project final design contract was awarded by IDBC in 1977, to the civil engineering prime consultant Sverdrup & Parcel and Parsons, Quade, Brinckerhoff, & Douglas, which was a joint venture for this project, also known as the SPB Joint Venture. SPB utilized the following engineering firms for sub-consulting work: Delon Hampton & Associates; Whitman, Requardt and Associates; Rummel, Klepper & Kahl; RTKL Associates, Inc.; Purdum & Jeschke; The Leon Bridges Company; and Ecological Analysts, Inc.

The Interstate Division for Baltimore City (IDBC) was a joint city-state agency that existed to administer the planning, design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction of Interstate highways within the City of Baltimore, and IDBC ceased to exist after the Interstate highway construction was completed.

The Baltimore 3-A Interstate and Boulevard System concept was officially adopted in 1969. In the 3-A System, the I-95 Fort McHenry Bypass was located on the Locust Point peninsula, where it was eventually constructed. On I-95, there was to have been an 8-lane double-decked high-level bridge just north of Fort McHenry and passing over Baltimore Harbor, with one of its main piers on the fort property, and the bridge's vertical navigational clearance over the shipping channel would have been about 180 feet, so that oceangoing ships could pass underneath. Around 1975, the Fort McHenry Tunnel concept was adopted due to aesthetic and historical concerns at the Fort McHenry national monument. Operationally, the bridge would have been superior, and it would have cost much less to build, but the bridge would have towered over Fort McHenry.

Section 4(f) Case Studies - Baltimore, Maryland - Fort McHenry, by National Trust for Historic Preservation. See the link for article and large image of bridge Excerpt (in blue text):
Pointing to Section 4(f)'s requirement that road projects avoid historic places unless there was no "feasible and prudent alternative," they began advocating for a tunnel rather than a bridge. Planners revisited their initial decision and ultimately agreed, and what's now known as the Fort McHenry tunnel came in on time and under budget. Most importantly, it left the fort and its flag to wave in the sun for generations to come.

The state originally wanted to build the tunnel with a rectangular reinforced concrete box design, but the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) insisted on a steel tubular design, and after a six-month dispute over what design to utilize, the state decided in February 1976 to accept the steel tubular design. The steel tunnel design with a fully-transverse ventilation system, approved by federal highway officials, was estimated to cost 1.5% more to build than the concrete box design with semi-transverse vents. Both designs would utilize the immersed-tube construction method whereby segments of the tunnel would be fabricated on land and then floated to the tunnel site and sunk in a dredged trench under the floor of the harbor.

Plan View of Fort McHenry Tunnel Area

Click the above image for a detailed page Fort McHenry Tunnel - Project Plans with plan, profile and typical section views of the tunnel. North is on the vertical axis pointing upward.

Sunken Tube Tunnel Construction

Excerpts in blue text from "Sunken tubes to close $980-million gap in Interstate 95", Engineering News-Record magazine, June 4, 1981.
In the most expensive Interstate highway project yet, contractors are preparing to lay a 5,400-ft. eight-lane sunken tube tunnel under congested Baltimore Harbor to complete a 1.7-mile stretch of I-95. The tunnel - the closing link of I-95 in Maryland - will lie near historic Fort McHenry, the area where Francis Scott Key wrote the words for the Star Spangled Banner during the War of 1812.

In 1970, the Interstate Division for Baltimore City (IDBC), a joint city-state agency, planned to build a bridge but ran into opposition from local residents who felt a bridge would obstruct the view of the historic fort. Blocked by residents, the agency then opted for a tunnel, and in 1978 IDBC Chief William K. Hellmann organized an environmental task force of federal, state and city agencies in order to streamline the permit process. Task force members included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers. IDBC decided at the start without consulting federal officials, that an environmental impact statement and a public hearing were required for the harbor dredging, a key element of the project.

The article says that the normal process would have been to submit the proposal to the Corps, but Hellmann said that IDBC simply decided to go ahead and do it, and the Corps worked with them. IDBC conducted a one-year $1 million environmental study. The resulting draft environmental impact statement was approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). IDBC held the public hearing, applied to the Corps for a dredge and fill permit, and the Corps granted the permit in spring 1980, about six months after application.

The initial tunnel construction contract was the Trench Tunnel Contract awarded on May 7, 1980 to a Joint Venture of Kiewit-Raymond-Tidewater, or K-R-T, which was a consortium of the firms Peter Kiewit & Sons Company of Omaha, Nebraska; Raymond International Builders, Inc. of Houston, Texas; and Tidewater Construction Company (today's Tidewater Skanska, Inc.) of Norfolk, Virginia. The award amount was $425 million, making it by far the most expensive single construction contract in the history of the Interstate highway system, only exceeded in the late 1990s by a couple of the contract awards on the Central Artery-Tunnel (CA-T) Project (also called the Big Dig) in Boston, Mass. The Trench Tunnel Contract included dredging a trench with a bottom width of 180 feet across the harbor bottom, excavating a trench at each shore area near the harbor shoreline, transporting the 3.5 million cubic yards of spoil material by underwater slurry pipeline to the Canton/Seagirt Disposal Site a couple miles away in East Baltimore, fabricating the 32 individual 320-foot-long tunnel sections at Wiley Manufacturing at Port Deposit, Maryland; concreting and sinking the tunnel sections in the trench, connecting the tunnel sections to each other, backfilling soil over the sunken elements to restore the former harbor bottom contour, and finishing the tunnel by building inside the tunnel the ceiling slabs and installing reflective tiles on the tunnel walls.

The Trench Tunnel Contract included the relocation of a 48-inch water main that crosses the central part of the tunnel right-of-way, passing from the Locust Point peninsula to East Baltimore on roughly the same corridor as the new tunnel. The 42-feet deep shipping channel is near the eastern shore, so this contract included dredging a trench for 1/4 mile inland, with the sunken tubes being floated into place there. Workers drove sheetpiles to serve as a temporary bulkhead, and then the dredging was carried out. A similar process was carried out on the western shore, but for a much shorter distance. Dredge material from the shore trenches was transported to the Canton/Seagirt Disposal Site, same process as with the trench under the harbor.

The steel sunken tube tunnel elements are 82 feet wide and 42 feet high, and they were fabricated by Wiley Manufacturing on about a 3 week schedule, launched sideways into the Susquehanna River, and then towed 45 miles to an outfitting pier near Fort McHenry, where they had interior and exterior concrete work performed. It took about 16 weeks to completely outfit a tunnel section with concrete. A lay barge then towed the outfitted tunnel element to the project site, where additional ballast concrete was added to provide negative buoyancy, and the element was then lowered into the tunnel trench. All the tunnel elements were laid between 1981 and 1983, on a 3 to 4 week cycle.

The Fort McHenry Tunnel construction method is described in detail in this linked document: Construction of I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore, Maryland, by Maryland Department of Transportation, and City of Baltimore, and U.S. Department of Transportation. This six-page folder was widely distributed to the public while the project was under construction. I utilized Adobe Acrobat 5.0 to create the .pdf document. The resolution is a tad lacking in a few places, but overall the document reproduced fairly well, and at 1,789 KB, it is large but a lot smaller than if scanned as images. The files are in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader, please click here to download a free copy of the program.

The 5,400-foot-long immersed tube portion of the Fort McHenry Tunnel was built with the same construction method as that of the Ted Williams Tunnel in Boston, which was opened to traffic in 1995. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project - Ted Williams Tunnel website has a detailed description of the immersed tube construction method on the page CA/T Project - Ted Williams Tunnel - How was it built?

Excellence in Highway Design - Ted Williams Tunnel, Category 1 - Urban Highways Award of Merit, Federal Highway Administration, 1996. Quote (blue text):
The Ted Williams Tunnel doubles Boston's traffic capacity under Boston Harbor to Logan Airport from four lanes to eight. The 2.6 km (1.6 mile), $1.3 billion tunnel, includes a 1.2 km (3/4 mile) underwater section consisting of tubes placed in a trench dredged on the harbor floor. The tunnel was initially only opened to commercial traffic while local highway connections are completed. When the connection to the Massachusetts Turnpike is finished (expected in 2001) the tunnel will complete 1-90 from coast to coast.

Canton/Seagirt Disposal Site and Seagirt Marine Terminal

The Canton/Seagirt Disposal Site was a 146-acre site designated as the waste area for the 3.5 million cubic yards of spoil from the tunnel trench, and the contract amount for it was $54 million. There were 76 cellular cofferdams, each 62 feet in diameter, altogether stretching for 5,600 linear feet, built as an outer perimeter to contain the fill as it was pumped there during the trench dredging. IDBC obtained permission from FHWA to develop this site to standards that would allow it to be used for a future marine terminal. This did occur, as the Seagirt Marine Terminal was built later by the Maryland Port Administration. Excerpt (blue text):
The Seagirt Marine Terminal stands as a working monument to the Port of Baltimore's innovative and progressive spirit. Opened in 1990, Seagirt features the latest in cargo-handling equipment and systems. The design behind this high-tech facility systems from one simple principle: keep the cargo moving. The computerized gate complex serves as the nerve center for the 275-acre (112 ha) container terminal.

Cut-and-Cover Tunnel Approach Construction

Here's what the east approach looked like when it was under construction in July 1983. The steel tube elements from the harbor crossing will transition to a concrete cast-in-place tunnel (just starting construction) several hundred yards long, ending in the portal. Notice the massive concrete gravity slabs under construction. They will range from 7 to 20 feet thick, designed to resist the hydrostatic pressure below sea level; the thickness increases as the tunnel grade slopes downward toward the harbor, reaching about 30 feet below sea level where the sunken tube tunnel begins. The gravity slabs extend for the full width of the approach tunnel and open depressed approach, and they literally serve as an "anchor" by providing enough weight to prevent the structure from "floating" upward from the pressure of the ground water. The I-395 Mall Tunnel in the District of Columbia and the I-95 "bathtub" project in downtown Philadelphia used gravity slabs too, for the same reasons, where tunnels and open approaches were below sea level.

The Fort McHenry Tunnel project is 8,800 feet long from grade point to grade point, and 7,200 feet from portal to portal. The sunken tube portion is 5,400 feet long, and was constructed as the Trench Tunnel Contract discussed above; and the roadway reaches a maximum depth of 107 feet below harbor water surface level. The harbor water surface level is the same as sea level; the Patapsco River/Baltimore Harbor flows into Chesapeake Bay which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The 2,300-foot-long West Approach Contract was awarded in November 1981 to Lane Construction Corp. of Meriden, Conn., and the award amount was $64 million. The Interstate Division for Baltimore City (IDBC), a joint city-state agency established to administer the construction of Interstate highways in the City of Baltimore, had estimated the cost at $126 million, so the low bid was 51% of the estimated cost. National recession and shortfall in state and federal highway funding in the early 1980s caused heavy construction contractors to be hungry for work, and in many cases around the country they bid individual projects far below the agency estimate. The West Approach contract included the relocation of existing railroads, the addition of 2,800 feet of new track, the construction of cut-and-cover cast-in-place reinforced concrete tunnel structure, the construction of open depressed approaches, and the erection of the west ventilation building.

The 1,600-foot-long East Approach Contract was awarded in June 1982 to S.J. Groves & Sons Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., and the award amount was $37 million. IDBC had estimated the cost at $50 million, so the low bid was 26% below the agency estimated cost. The East Approach contract included the construction of cut-and-cover cast-in-place reinforced concrete tunnel structure, the construction of open depressed approaches, and the erection of the east ventilation building. The West Approach is longer than the East Approach, mainly to provide almost 700 feet of covered land freeway to extend the underground freeway farther from Fort McHenry, and for a longer distance near the Locust Point neighborhood.

The fact that the West Approach Contract and the East Approach Contract were awarded at far lower than the original engineering estimates ($62 million lower and $13 million lower, respectively), is the principal reason why the initial estimate for the whole Fort McHenry Tunnel project was $825 million, and the final cost upon completion was $750 million.

One of the eastbound tubes under construction, March 1984, near the mid-point under the harbor, about 100 feet below the surface of the water. The Fort McHenry Tunnel is a very unusual underwater tunnel, in that it is built on a long horizontal curve. Other tunnels are straight, making construction simpler. Of course, there is nothing simple about building an underwater tunnel.

Mechanical and Electrical Systems

The contract for mechanical and electrical equipment was awarded to Howard P. Foley Co. of Baltimore, for $47 million. This involved the installation of 48 9-foot-diameter ventilation fans, 24 in the west ventilation building and 24 in the east ventilation building, to move up to 6.7 million cubic feet of air per minute, to blow fresh air into the tunnel through the 8-foot-high passageway under the roadway with ventilation slots at roadway level, and to exhaust fume-laden air out of the tunnel through the 7-foot-high passageway above the drop ceiling. In each ventilation building, 12 of the fans are for supply and 12 are for exhaust. The tunnel complex has a very large system of electrical systems, as the entire tunnel has continuous signal, lighting and surveillance systems that require many hundreds of miles of wiring. Fire fighting equipment is stationed throughout the tunnel, with water mains serving the hydrants. The tunnel has 28 pumps with a total capacity of 44,000 gallons per minute. Each ventilation building has the equivalent of a small power substation for converting the voltage of the power coming into the tunnel complex.

Other components of the Fort McHenry Tunnel project included Right-of-way, $17 million, Design Engineering, $30 million, awarded in 1978; Project Management and Construction Engineering, over $50 million; Toll Plaza - $27 million, and Final Paving, $30 million.

Again, opening day on I-95, looking west, just west of the west portals. I-95 transitions from the tunnel to ground level to an elevated viaduct, which you can see in the distance. The elevated freeway on the Locust Point Peninsula is about 3 miles long. Heading west, you can see the two two-lane roadways from the tunnels merge into a single four-lane roadway.

Fort McHenry Tunnel construction facts, from "Construction of I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore, Maryland", public brochure, MDOT, CoB, USDOT.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Construction Facts
Years under construction 1980-1985
Length of the tunnel:
Grade point to grade point length 8,800 feet
Portal to portal length 7,200 feet
Length of tube section 5,400 feet
Depth of dredged trench (at deepest point) 115 feet
Prefabricated tubes:
Number of tubes for tunnel 32
Weight of steel in one tube 1,688 tons
Concrete required for each tube 2,660 cubic yards
Tube weight with concrete 31,882 tons
Fans (24 supply and 24 exhaust) total capacity 6,684,000 cubic feet per minute
Pumps (28 total) total capacity 44,000 gallons per minute
Approximate quantities of major items:
Structural steel 101,659,700 lbs.
Reinforcement (all types) 42,504,730 lbs.
Concrete (all mixes) 904,580 cubic yards
Piling (berth restoration & disposal site) 35,000,000 lbs.
Dredged material 3,524,820 cubic yards
Ceramic tiling 1,800,000 square feet
Backfill (all types) 2,488,400 cubic yards

Fort McHenry Tunnel Photo Articles

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Construction
Roads to the Future article with 62 photos from 1983 to 1985.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - Opening Day Photos
Roads to the Future article with 30 photos on opening day.

Fort McHenry Tunnel Project Documents

Construction of I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore, Maryland, MDOT, CoB, USDOT. This six-page folder was widely distributed to the public while the project was under construction. I utilized Adobe Acrobat 5.0 to create the .pdf document. The resolution is a tad lacking in a few places, but overall the document reproduced fairly well, and at 1,789 KB, it is large but a lot smaller than if scanned as images.

The files are in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader, please click here to download a free copy of the program.


1) "Groundbreaking Ceremonies I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel", public brochure, MDOT, CoB, USDOT, June 17, 1980.
2) "Tube Launching Ceremonies I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel", public brochure, MDOT, CoB, USDOT, April 24, 1981.
3) "Dedication Ceremonies I-95, I-395, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard", public brochure, MDOT, CoB, USDOT, December 9, 1982.
4) "Construction of I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel, Baltimore, Maryland", public brochure, MDOT, CoB, USDOT.
5) "The Fort McHenry Tunnel", public brochure, IDBC, MDOT, CoB, USDOT.
6) "I-95 Drivers Get Remedy for Harbor Headache", Washington Post, November 23, 1985.
7) "Sunken tubes to close $980-million gap in Interstate 95", ENR, June 4, 1981. "First Baltimore tunnel section sunk", ENR, October 29, 1981.
8) "Bid for tunnel approach is half agency's estimate", ENR, November 12, 1981.
9) "Approach work helps fill the gap", ENR, August 23, 1984.
10) "Innovative Engineering Completes Dredge Spoil Disposal Facility", Civil Engineering Magazine, March 1984.
11) Final Joint Development, Baltimore Interstate Highway System 3-A, by Urban Design Concept Associates (a joint corporate venture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; J.E. Greiner Company, Inc., Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas; Wilber Smith & Associates), December 1970.
12) "Baltimore agrees to steel tubular tunnel under harbor", ENR, February 26, 1976.

Codes: MDOT: Maryland Department of Transportation; IDBC: Interstate Division for Baltimore City; CoB: City of Baltimore; USDOT: U.S. Department of Transportation; ENR: Engineering News-Record Magazine.

Engineering News-Record magazine is published weekly by McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group.

ASCE Website. ASCE's Civil Engineering magazine.

Fort McHenry Tunnel - External Links

In 2002, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) had an article "Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Capital Beltway & Baltimore Harbor Tunnels Selected Maryland's Top Transportation Infrastructure Projects of 20th Century". Excerpt (blue text):
Two tunnels beneath Baltimore Harbor are important routes for local traffic and a substantial portion of vehicles passing through the area on I-95, the East Coast's busiest and important highway for personal and commercial travel. The first of these, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, is designated I-895 and was opened in 1957. It connects north-south highways and arterials in Baltimore's industrial section. The four-lane, 1.4-mile tunnel carries about 22 million vehicles a year. The Fort McHenry Tunnel, the world's widest underwater vehicular tunnel, carries I-95 under the harbor near historic Fort McHenry and close to downtown Baltimore. It was opened in 1985 and is part of a network of harbor crossings providing service to local and interstate traffic. The 1.5-mile, eight-lane tunnel handles nearly 40 million vehicles a year. Traffic feeds to and from both tunnels from I-95 north and south of the harbor.

FHWA By Day - June 17, A Look at the History of the Federal Highway Administration. See the link for photos. Quote (blue text):
June 17, 1980: Groundbreaking ceremonies take place for the I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, MD. Initial plans for a bridge over the Patapsco River were abandoned because of local opposition. The completed $750 million tunnel is dedicated November 23, 1985--on time and $100 million under budget--with Executive Director Lester Lamm representing FHWA during the dedication. The tunnel is the largest underwater highway tunnel and the widest vehicular tunnel ever built by the immersed tube method.

Historical Links for Fort McHenry and the "Star Spangled Banner"

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine by the National Park Service. "This late 18th century star-shaped fort is world famous as the birthplace of the American national anthem. The guardian of Baltimore's harbor, it was the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during a British attack on September 13-14, 1814, that inspired 35 year old, poet-lawyer, Francis Scott Key to write 'The Star-Spangled Banner'."

Fort McHenry by L. Eugene Towner of Baltimore, Maryland. His education includes degrees from Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland. He is a registered Professional Engineer and practicing attorney and consults on computer related matters. A very interesting website with many details about Fort McHenry, the "Star-Spangled Banner", Fort History, Flags at Fort McHenry, A Virtual Tour of the Fort, a Tour The Battle of North Point, and other interesting topics.

The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House is one of Baltimore's oldest museums. Founded in 1927, the Flag House has been open to the public for 71 years. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House Association, Inc. was formed in 1927 to operate a museum dedicated to the story of Mary Young Pickersgill who made the enormous 30 x 42-foot Star-Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became our National Anthem. Mary Pickersgill's flag still survives and now hangs at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.


All photos taken by Scott Kozel.

Copyright 1997-2006 by Scott Kozel. All rights reserved. Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created 11-7-1999, updated 1-9-2006)