$4.5b Baltimore Tunnel Replacement Gets Green Light

The new tunnel will be named after Frederick Douglass.

Source : Unsplash

February 16, 2023

Author : Alex Bustillos

For decades, America's rail network has suffered due to a lack of proper funding, resulting in decaying rail infrastructure. One such ‘victim’ was the Baltimore Tunnel

The Biden-Harris administration will undertake a crucial project funded by the IIJA to replace the 150 year old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. 

The 1.4-mile tunnel passes through heavily populated West Baltimore and connects travelers with Penn Station. The tunnel is the main bottleneck between Washington and New Jersey on the Northeast Corridor. 

This impacts nine million Amtrak and Maryland Area Commuter (MARC) passengers who use it each year. If the old tunnel unexpectedly closes, there are no alternatives. Because of the tunnel's tight curvature and steep elevation, trains are limited to 30 mph. These difficulties cause regular delays.

The Baltimore-Potomac Tunnel Replacement Program will construct the following:

  • a new tunnel with two tubes along a softer curve alignment
  • ventilation and emergency egress facilities
  • new signaling systems
  • overhead catenary and track
  • five new roadway and railroad bridges in the tunnel's vicinity
  • a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC station.

The new tunnel will be named after Frederick Douglass, a civil rights pioneer and abolitionist.

When the project is completed, improvements in speed and capacity will permit service growth and reduce approximately seven hours of train delay on an average weekday. The tunnel's capacity is expected to triple, and trains traveling through it can move at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, up from the current 30 miles per hour. According to one estimate, rebuilding the tunnel would save MARC and Amtrak customers roughly 450,000 hours yearly. Amtrak pegs the cost of the project at $4.5 billion and is soliciting partners.

According to Amtrak, the new tunnel will be completed by 2032, while diesel-powered freight trains will continue using the old tunnel four times weekly.

The first phase of the $1 billion Southern Approach project has begun. It comprises a new ADA-compliant West Baltimore MARC station, substantial excavations for the approach to the south portal for the new tunnel and bridge construction, and utility and roadway work.

A part of the project is being paid for by Amtrak, with additional funds from the state of Maryland and the Federal Rail Administration.

The program is intended to create 30,000 employment, with around 20,000 of those being direct construction work. Amtrak is investing more than $50 million in employment development and regional community improvements.

Amtrak is constructing this project using the Delivery Partner model, in which a construction partner's payments are related to important KPIs. The partner's profits can be increased by completing particular milestones. 

Amtrak views the Delivery Partner model as a mechanism to share risk with a private partner and a supplement to the Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR) delivery approach. Amtrak is also employing the CMAR model for the first time.

Category : Investment in Infrastructure Public Works

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