Currently one-fifth of Amtrak’s passenger trips and one-third of its ticket revenues depend on travel through Baltimore, and the tunnel is critical to commuter and local freight operations that support states all along the Northeast Corridor. The tunnel is a primary chokepoint along the NEC as train volume is constricted and the tunnel’s tight curvature requires trains to drop speeds to 30 mph. These limitations have impeded overall efforts to improve capacity and trip times along the NEC and the tunnels require significant rehabilitation to extend their useful life, which cannot be cost effectively performed while the tunnel remains in service. Further with growing ridership demand, replacement and rehabilitation of the tunnel is all the more critical.
In 2010, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) was awarded $60 million in ARRA HSIPR funding for preliminary engineering and environment review documentation in compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and MDOT have managed the Environmental Impact Statement process, while Amtrak is managing the project engineering as the owner of the infrastructure. The FRA and MDOT issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in November 2016 and the Record of Decision (ROD) was released March 2017. Funding has not currently been identified for final design and construction of the project. Project partners are committed to ongoing public outreach as funding is provided to advance the project.
In 2020, Amtrak initiated a preventative maintenance project for the existing tunnel. “This preventive maintenance work is necessary, but it is not a silver bullet,” Gery Williams, Amtrak VP, chief engineer, said. “Due to its age along with growing ridership demand, full replacement of the tunnel, with a new four-track tunnel system improving reliability, capacity, and connectivity, is the only long-term solution.”
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