Federal Railroad Decides How To Replace B&P Tunnel

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has picked its top choice of options for replacing the Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel in West Baltimore. The existing tunnel, regarded as a problematic bottleneck for Amtrak and commercial rail traffic along the Northeast Corridor, would be replaced by four new single track tunnels. The project is anticipated to cost $4.52 billion.

The selected alignment would:

  • create a 3.67-mile stretch of rail sweeping in a west-to-east arc from  the West Baltimore MARC Station to Penn Station;
  • include a new rail bridge over Mulberry and Franklin streets and an open-cut section that transitions into a southern tunnel portal west of Payson Street between Riggs Avenue and Mosher Street;
  • include three new ventilation facilities;
  • require 22 residential buildings to be demolished, 15 of which are now occupied; and
  • displace 13 businesses and four places of worship in the Bridgeview/Greenlawn, Midtown-Edmondson and Reservoir Hill neighborhoods.
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The FRA has selected Alternative 3B (blue line above) as its preferred option for B&P Tunnel replacement.

From The Baltimore Sun

No funding source has been identified. Still, the conclusion of the three-year, federally funded engineering and environmental study — announced Friday [March 31] — was a necessary step before any large-scale project to replace the Amtrak-owned tunnel could get underway, and pushes the proposed project one step closer to reality. …

Replacing the tunnel, which is between the West Baltimore MARC station and Penn Station, has been a priority for Amtrak for years. While it is considered safe, it’s unreliable, requires frequent maintenance and slows traffic along the nation’s busiest rail corridor on a daily basis.

The new tunnel system would eliminate the current tunnel’s sharp curves and allow Amtrak and MARC trains to travel at higher speeds under the city. It also would ease movement of commercial freight along the line, though the limitations of the existing tunnel already have pushed freight companies to find alternate routes through the region.

Federal officials say the replacement of the tunnel will “promote the long-term economic success of the city and surrounding region.”

From www.bptunnel.com:

The Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a two-track railroad tunnel underneath central Baltimore City. The tunnel opened in 1873 and is located between the West Baltimore MARC Station and Pennsylvania Station along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC). This section of the NEC is used by Amtrak and Maryland’s MARC Commuter Rail passenger trains, as well as Norfolk Southern Railway freight trains.  The B&P Tunnel is owned by Amtrak and should not be confused with the Howard Street Tunnel, which is owned by CSX and used solely by CSX freight trains.

Working to improve rail service, reliability and address a longstanding bottleneck along Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Amtrak are advancing an engineering and environmental study to examine various improvements to the 141-year-old Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland.  MDOT was awarded a grant from FRA to complete the study as part of the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. As part of the study, FRA will lead development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in close coordination with MDOT, the public, and other stakeholders.