FRA chooses route for new NEC Baltimore tunnel

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Baltimore's current rail tunnel alignment
Federal Railroad Administration
Baltimore tunnel project overview
Federal Railroad Administration
BALTIMORE — For Amtrak passengers in Baltimore, the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel is like a jump back to medieval times. The train slows, tunnel walls close in, and take on the appearance of a dungeon, illuminated by occasional lights and brief glimpses of daylight far above.

The 144-year-old B&P Tunnel, owned by Amtrak, is a major chokepoint on the Northeast Corridor that sees 140 Amtrak and Maryland Area Regional Commuter trains daily.

That may change.

The Federal Railroad Administration has selected a new route that bypasses the two-track B&P and threads a new four-track line under Baltimore to Baltimore Penn Station.

The FRA estimates the new route could be in service by 2025, but the $4.5-billion project has received no funding.

The FRA's “record of decision” is the final report of a $61 million environmental impact study that has been under way since 2014. The agency chose an alignment that starts near the West Baltimore MARC station and swings in a 3.67-mile semi-circle more than 2,000 feet north of the B&P. Two miles of the route will be underground, in four parallel tunnels. The plan also calls for two ventilation and access points for first responders in an emergency.

In a prepared statement, Amtrak officials say they were excited that the FRA, Maryland Department of Transportation, and city of Baltimore had completed the the preliminary environmental and engineering work.

"The replacement of the B&P Tunnel is an economic imperative to attain the speed, frequency and reliability befitting a world-class rail system," the statment said. The B&P Tunnel is "a major impediment to high-speed rail service along the NEC. This Record of Decision begins the hard work of bringing all stakeholders together to identify funding with which to continue final design and advance construction."

More information is available online.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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