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January 28, 2010

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."


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:32 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads, MARC train


Regarding the BWI rail station improvements. There are already ongoing and partially completed improvements at that station. Where did that money come from and what is this new money going to do? They have one platform on the northbound side of the tracks that had an extension put on one half of it and the other half looked like it was getting redone too but hasn't had any work done on it for a while. Maybe the project was stalled, but if this money is for some new revamp then the oldmoney might have been a waste

Just to clarify - the B&P tunnel is railroad south, physically northwest of Penn Station.

This tunnel money is fantastic news, but it should be noted that the MARC Growth and Investment Plan calls for both a new tunnel under West Baltimore for Amtrak, and then the refurbishment of the B&P tunnel for MARC to use.

In your February 1st article regarding the D.C. Metro you make a reference to Baltimore's rail status as having "awkward interconnections". It seems that we have no interconnections and they are planning another "light rail" which doesn't seem to call for interconnections and will require a second tunnel under downtown. That is crazy. It makes using the present system awkward.

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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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