Maryland gets $70 million in federal rail funds
Two high-priority Maryland projects will receive $70 million in funding as part of the $8 billion in rail investments announced yesterday by the Obama administration.
Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the state will recived about $60 million toward engineering and preparation of environmental impact statements on a project to replace the more than 100-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel just west of Penn Station on the way to Washington along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
Replacement of the tunnel, a significant bottleneck for Amtrak and MARC Penn Line trains as they pass thhrough Baltimore, is expected to eventually cost on the order of $1 billion, Cahalan said.
Receiving $10 million in funding is a project to replace the Amtrak station and add a new platform at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Cahalan said. That money will also be used for engineering and ebvironmental statements -- a necessary step before coonstruction on the $80-$100 million project can begin. As part of that project, Cahalan said, the state will add a fourth track to the current three and build a middle platform so that all tracks can be used for getting on and off. Currently only two of the three tracks can be used for that purpose.
Cahalan said that in addition to improving Amtrak service, the tunnel and station improvements are also part of MARC's long-range expansion plan.
The tunnel has been a longtime priority for U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who helped obtain authorization for the project in a 2008 bill.
In a statment Thursday, Cummings welcomed the administration's announcement.
“This Civil War-era tunnel… has essentially reached the end of its useful life,” Cummings said in a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration supporting the state's application for the money. “Its antiquated design forces trains to travel no more than 30 miles per hour through the structure and its height limitations do not allow the use of taller galley cars. Replacement of this structure with a modern tunnel is essential to providing the safe accommodations necessary to improve Amtrak service on the Northeast Corridor, including reducing travel times between Washington, D.C., and points north."