Baltimore’s Northeast Corridor Bottleneck Closer To Replacement

Last Friday the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced that it has completed environmental review for replacement of the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel, located in Baltimore near Penn Station.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) includes review of the route for a new tunnel and incorporates changes sought by communities and neighborhoods in Baltimore during more than two dozen meetings held over the last two years.

The new route will feature smoother curves, allowing trains passing through to double their speeds. About 140 Amtrak, MARC, and Norfolk Southern freight trains currently travel through the existing tunnel daily, which is part of the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest rail corridor.  More than double as many trains could use the new tunnel daily.

The federal government has invested $60 million for the preliminary design and environmental review for this project.  The state of Maryland estimates the project could create or support 7,000 jobs a year, over seven years, with more than 50 percent of those jobs in construction.

From FRA’s press release:

In response to the input provided by communities and leaders in Baltimore, FRA relocated the ventilation plant location to West North Avenue to preserve a community garden, reduced the number of land parcels and historic properties impacted, decreased proposed relocations, and maintained the proposal to rebuild a larger and ADA-compliant West Baltimore MARC station.

The review includes proposed mitigation measures to address the impacts created by the route.  These measures include establishing several grant funds to support community development and recreation facilities, providing project-related job training and hiring preferences for local workers of social and economic disadvantage, implementing construction noise and vibration mitigation plans, and establishing a grant fund for historic preservation.

The new tunnel would be about 100 feet underground, compared to the existing tunnel’s 20-foot depth.  The deeper placement would nearly eliminate any noticeable vibrations from passing trains.

“This project is better because communities provided input on how a new tunnel could be built with as little impact as possible, and where there was an impact, how we can reduce it,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.  “The new tunnel will keep trains moving along the Northeast Corridor and create jobs in Baltimore.”