McHenry, Fort

McHenry, Fort

McHenry, Fort: see Fort McHenry.

The Fort McHenry Tunnel is one of two tunnels that carry traffic underneath the Baltimore Harbor. It is named for Fort McHenry, under which it passes.

The tunnel, opened on November 23, 1985, closed a gap in the East Coast’s most important interstate route, Interstate 95, between Maine and Florida. It also is the largest underwater highway tunnel built by the immersed tube method and the widest vehicular tunnel ever built by that same method. At the time of its opening it was the most expensive underwater tunnel project in the United States, but that figure has since been surpassed by the Big Dig project in Boston, Massachusetts. The Ft. McHenry Tunnel is one of seven toll facilities operated and maintained by the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The toll rate in 2008 for cars is $2.00, paid in both directions. Vehicles with more than two axles pay an additional $2.00 per extra axle.


Originally, plans called for an eight-lane bridge across the Baltimore Harbor to complete the final section of Interstate 95 in Maryland. However, it was next determined that a bridge would have had a negative environmental and aesthetic impact on the nearby National Monument and Historic Site at Fort McHenry, and also on the neighboring residential communities of Locust Point and Fells Point. An eight-lane 1.7-mile (2.7 km) tunnel was proposed as an alternative. This tunnel, as completed, extends from the Locust Point peninsula, passes south of Fort McHenry under the harbor navigational channel, and rises to surface grade in the Canton industrial area of Southeast Baltimore.

The tunnel's route near Fort McHenry, and below the shipping channel prompted, the design of the world’s first tunnel sections that curved both vertically and horizontally. The tunnel sections were manufactured in Port Deposit, Maryland, and they were floated to the site using tugboats.

The tunnel was built using the open-trench method, in which prefabricated tunnel sections were sunk in a trench dredged in the harbor’s bottom. The sections were then joined underwater. A dredge-disposal site for materials removed from the tunnel trench was created at the nearby Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore Seagirt Marine Terminal, resulting in 136 acres (55 hectares) of new, usable land. The Ft. McHenry Tunnel was opened on time and under its budget, and it continues to be a vital transportation link in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Before and during the Civil War, a tunnel had been dug from the B & O Railroad's Camden Station south to the north side of Federal Hill, and then to Fort McHenry. During the consruction of the Ft. McHenry Tennel, some houses in the Federal Hill neighborhood collapsed when that brick-lined tunnel collapsed. That tunnel was probably built by the U.S. Army and fell from use after the Civil War.


  • The Ft. McHenry Tunnel was constructed from June 1980 to November 1985, at a cost of about 750 million dollars.
  • The tunnel's annual traffic in 2003 was 44.1 million vehicles. Approximately 115,000 vehicles was the Annual average daily traffic.

Sources: Maryland Transportation Authority

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