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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA revises proposed B&P rail tunnel project


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday unveiled a revised proposal to replace the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) rail tunnel in Baltimore that currently is a major chokepoint on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

The revised proposal is based on Baltimore residents' comments provided to the FRA during three public hearings in February. At those hearings, the agency presented a draft environmental impact statement containing three options for replacing the tunnel. The revised proposal narrows those options to one, "Alternative 3B."

The FRA will make "several significant changes" to that option as part of the final environmental impact statement, agency and U.S. Department of Transportation officials said in a press release.

The proposed tunnel would be an average of 115 feet deep underground in comparison to the average 20 feet of the existing B&P tunnel. The deeper tunnel would nearly eliminate noticeable vibrations from passing trains, FRA officials said.

Other proposed changes now include not placing the vent plant where a community garden is located and instead seeking community input for a location along North Avenue; reducing the number of parcels of land and historic properties impacted; decreasing relocations; improving the West Baltimore MARC station to be larger and ADA compliant; and shifting the new tunnel closer to the existing tracks.

The FRA held a public hearing yesterday to gather input on the revised proposal, and will hold a second hearing April 16 in Baltimore.

"Rebuilding the B&P Tunnel is a significant undertaking, and it is our responsibility to incorporate input from everyone it will serve and affect," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

An estimated 140 Amtrak and MARC trains travel daily through the tunnel, which Amtrak owns. The FRA is leading the environmental impact statement process in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The project's preliminary design and environmental review has cost the federal government about $60 million so far.