Working to improve rail service, reliability and address a longstanding bottleneck along Amtrak's busy Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Amtrak are advancing an engineering and environmental study to examine various improvements to the 141-year-old Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland. The B&P Tunnel is located between the West Baltimore MARC Station and Pennsylvania Station along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor (NEC). This section of the NEC is used by Amtrak and Maryland's MARC Commuter Rail passenger trains, as well as Norfolk Southern Railway freight trains. The B&P Tunnel is owned by Amtrak and should not be confused with the Howard Street Tunnel, which is owned by CSX and used solely by CSX freight trains.
The tunnel, which opened in 1873, is approaching the end of its useful service life. The FRA awarded a High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grant funding towards preliminary engineering and environmental analysis to study improvements to the B&P Tunnel. The study aims to address deficient track geometry and tunnel characteristics which significantly hamper rail movement, creating a low-speed bottleneck on a high-traffic section of the NEC. The study will develop and evaluate various alternatives based on the need to improve capacity and travel time through the corridor, and in consideration of reliability and safety for commuter, freight, and intercity rail service on the NEC.
The Project has involved an extensive public outreach campaign to ensure the public is informed and has provided several opportunities for public comment on study findings and recommendations. Outreach efforts included several open houses and community association meetings, elected official briefings, three public hearings and a Project website.
The Project’s comprehensive alternatives screening process narrowed the initial set of 16 Preliminary Alternatives to the three alternatives (3A, 3B and 3C) evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was published in December, 2015. Further engineering refinements to minimize impacts were made to the alternatives subsequent to the DEIS.
In April 2016, the Project Team hosted a series of open houses to update the public on the elimination of Alternatives 3A and 3C and the advancement of Alternative 3B as the Preferred Alternative. The open houses also gave the Project Team the opportunity to identify newly proposed ventilation plant locations. An official announcement of the Preferred Alternative is anticipated in fall 2016, concurrent with release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). All meeting materials are available for review.
Alternative 3B was identified as the Preferred Alternative based on a review of engineering and environmental criteria including operations, cost, and impacts to community, historical resources and other environmental features. This alternative has been refined since the DEIS to keep the alignment closer to the existing tracks and to minimize environmental impacts, including residential displacements and historic building demolitions. The Project Team also has identified two new potential intermediate ventilation plant sites on North Avenue. Ventilation plants also will be located near the north and south portals at both ends of the tunnel.
Further details will be included in the FEIS, which will be available this fall. The FEIS also will provide updates to the Project purpose and need, outline a full analysis of alternatives considered, assess environmental considerations, and respond to community comments received during the comment period that followed the publication of the DEIS.
In May 2016, the Project Team held two Mitigation Working Group meetings, comprised of members of the Project Team and community representatives. The group discussed methods for mitigating potential environmental and community impacts including noise, vibration and street closures. Minutes from these meetings are summarized on the Project website and will be reflected in the FEIS.
In fall 2016, the public will have an opportunity to review the FEIS. The document will be available online and at select public locations including a number of area libraries.
In spring 2017, we anticipate a Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Railroad Administration. This ROD will reflect the final decision with regard to the Project. It should be noted that final design and construction resources have not been established and future allocations may necessitate additional planning and public outreach milestones and adjustments to the overall project.
B&P Tunnel Project
81 Mosher Street
Baltimore, MD 21217