Feds select $4.5B Baltimore Amtrak tunnel replacement plan
- The Federal Railroad Administration has announced its decision to move forward with a $4.5 billion plan to replace a 144-year-old Amtrak-owned train tunnel under Baltimore, according to The Baltimore Sun.
- The FRA said the strategy that will have the least environmental impact will be to bore four new single-track tunnels, which will allow Amtrak and the MARC commuter rail service to travel at higher speeds and will provide a more reliable route for commercial freight lines.
- Rail officials told The Sun that the old, deteriorating tunnel cannot keep pace with growth in Baltimore, as well as in the Northeast region. The source of funding for the project has not yet been decided.
The FRA announced this plan back in December and tossed out three other potential routes in favor of this one. Residents who will not be displaced and will live above the proposed route have expressed concern about the noise and vibration from operations and have raised safety concerns about dangerous freight that could be passing underneath them. Part of the FRA's delay was to allow opponents to review the plan.
According to Amtrak, the Northeast Corridor sees travel on the part of approximately 2,200 trains every day and recorded 17.6 million passenger trips in 2015. The U.S. Department of Transportation loaned Amtrak $2.45 billion last summer for upgrades to keep the vital route running smoothly, but the rail company said it still needs an additional $7 billion for maintenance.
Last year, Amtrak announced preliminary plans for a complete overhaul of Baltimore's Penn Station as well. Officials said they were looking for a redevelopment team that could finance and design the renovation, as well as involve the community. Amtrak selected three finalists to come up with their own versions of a "master plan" for the non-rail areas of the station and the surrounding property. Amtrak said it will select a winner this summer.
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