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Price of Ellicott City flood prevention project balloons to $130 million

Ellicott City’s historic district was ravaged by deadly flooding in 2016 and 2018. photo by Walt.

By Nick Iannelli

The price of a flood prevention project in Ellicott City which saw two major flooding events in 2016 and 2018, has skyrocketed by nearly $50 million.

According to Howard County officials, building the “extended north tunnel” is now expected to cost $130 million, compared to the $82 million price tag that was initially announced along with the project in 2019.

County Executive Calvin Ball (D) put much of the blame on inflation.

“While we understood the sizable investment required when we began this project in 2019, we could not foresee the present inflationary pressures,” Ball said.

According to Ball, construction and building costs in Maryland over the past year have increased by nearly 15% and more than 21%, respectively.

“These external economic factors have increased the price,” Ball said.

An expansion of the project also led to it becoming more expensive.

When the project was first announced in 2019, it was promoted as a 1,600-foot tunnel that would be 15 feet in diameter.

That was later expanded to 5,300-feet long and 18 feet in diameter.

“We knew that this plan would not be easy,” Ball said. “We knew it was complex, but we knew it was the right thing to do.”

Howard County officials said that they would need to look for additional funding, possibly through state or federal dollars.

In May, the county announced the closing of a $75 million federal loan to help cover costs associated with the tunnel.

“As we continue to work through our budget process in Howard County, we have also identified possible grant funding, which we are applying for to assist us in acquiring the necessary amount,” said Mark Miller, a spokesman for the county.

Miller said despite the cost increase, “the tunnel is nearing design completion and will soon be ready for construction.”

The tunnel is one of several ongoing flood prevention projects in Ellicott City following the two devastating and deadly floods.

Its purpose will be to direct water away from the streets and foundations of Ellicott City and move it into the Patapsco River.

The tunnel will carry 26,000 gallons of stormwater per second, county officials said.

Other projects include the construction of retention ponds, the installation of an outdoor tone alert system, and the establishment of a program to remove debris from surrounding waterways.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Nick Iannelli. Click here for the WTOP News website.


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Price of Ellicott City flood prevention project balloons to $130 million