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January 29, 2010

Here's the rail projects that weren't funded

The good new this morning was the $70 million Maryland received out of $8 billion the Obama administration allocated Thursday for high-speed rail projects. Maryland's share will go toward two important projects for the state -- replacement of Baltimore's ancient Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel on the Amtrak Northeast Corridor and replacement of the far-too-small Amtrak/MARC station at BWI.

But those two projects were only two of seven on the state's original wish list totaling $360 million.

Getting $70 million out of a $360 million request might not sound like much, but it was a  better performance that the national average. The Obama administration received $57 billion in proposals for a share of $8 billion in high-speed rail funds allocated under last year's stimulus bill -- meaning that $1 was granted for roughly every $9 requested nationwide. Maryland received better than $1 for every $6 requested.

Here's the five Maryland projects that didn't make the cut after No. 1 and No. 2 were granted:


3. Replace Three Rail Bridges as part of the Northern Maryland Capacity and Trip Time Improvement Program - $200 Million: The funding would provide engineering and studies to advance replacement of the Bush, Susquehanna and Gunpowder bridges.  The new three-track bridges would replace the existing two-track bridges, greatly increasing passenger service to better meet the demands of high-speed rail that Amtrak requires.  Currently, Amtrak, MARC and freight must go slower speeds as they cross these bridges.

4. Wedge Yard - $36 million: The funding would provide final design and construction of a six-track yard in the Washington Terminal to reduce congestion and alleviate overcrowding of intercity and commuter trains stored at Union Station to increase capacity in the corridor.  This project would allow MARC trains, which now have to head all the way back to Baltimore during the day, to remain at Union Station until they are needed for the afternoon rush hour.  The Wedge Yard also would store Amtrak trains overnight.

5. Chesapeake Connector - $25 million: The funding would provide engineering and studies to advance a grade separation and a third track from Perryville to Elkton to improve safety and increase Amtrak and freight capacity.  The grade separation would improve freight movement to the Port of Baltimore by allowing freight trains 24-hour access to the Port through this connection.  Currently, freight traffic is limited to running trains between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

6. Positive Train Control (PTC) - $10 million: This funding would provide MARC with a GPS-based train locating system.  This system will allow MARC to run more efficiently and safely while working with compatible planned systems for Amtrak and CSX.  This funding would provide equipment for trains running on the Amtrak / MARC Penn Line and Brunswick Line.

7. Brunswick Line Signaling Improvements - $18.3 million: This funding would update railway signaling between Silver Spring and Brunswick for expanded capacity and would improve service reliability on the CSXT Metropolitan Subdivision, serving intercity passenger rail, MARC and freight trains.

These aren't projects that will go away. They're simply likely to come back another day in another form -- whether in the state transportation budget, a federal appropriation or a future grant.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:37 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads


The Great Circle tunnel replacement of the B&P tunnel is simply the most critical project that is complex and expensive enough that it needs to begin planning now so construction can be assured within a reasonable time frame. The national, let alone local, economy depends on it.

Nate Payer

I'm surprised replacing the birdges didn't get funding since that slows trains down in the NE corridor. I thought a major goal was to reduce travel time between DC & NYC and it seems those bridges and the B&P tunnel are two big slow points.
I would think that would be a higher priority than some of the other things in other states that did get funding.

regarding number 6
I thought positive train control was required by law after the commuter rail accident in California a while ago.

Any idea what they plan on doing with the B&P? Any chance for curve straightening or the link? The tunnels age and state of (not very) good repair are issues, but so is its general orientation. If it's still as curvy trains will always be limited to well under 100mph even if it is better than the current 30mph.

Carroll County, in its entirety, is a black hole for public transportation. Even Frederick has better service than we do. We don't even have a bus passing through.

Dear Jack Wibbe
Be glad there is no public transportation. We could extend the light rail to you but you would have to put police at every station and chain everything down. We could build some nice section 8 housing so some of the dredge of the city can be your neighbor.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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