Amtrak is launching a pilot project focused on rehabilitating the 147-year-old Baltimore & Potomac (B&P) Tunnel.
The project includes preventive maintenance work that is critical to keep the tunnel, located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), in good working condition. Plans are in progress to build a new tunnel to replace the existing structure under the city of Baltimore, Amtrak said in a news release.
As part of the project, crews will replace 1,000 feet of track slab and block ties and renew track inside the tunnel that have deteriorated due to age and water infiltration. This work will take place over eight weekends, with minimal service impacts. This pilot project will allow Amtrak’s Engineering Department to evaluate viable options to improve the reliability of the B&P Tunnel.
“This preventive maintenance work is necessary, but it is not a silver bullet,” Amtrak VP, Chief Engineer Gery Williams said in a news release. “Due to its age along with growing ridership demand, full replacement of the tunnel, with a new four track tunnel system improving reliability, capacity and connectivity, is the only long-term solution.”
The two-track tunnel, which opened in 1873, is located between the West Baltimore MARC and Baltimore Penn stations and is used by Amtrak, Maryland’s MARC Commuter trains and Norfolk Southern Railway freight trains.
Due to its age, the tunnel is approaching the end of its useful life. Its obsolete design creates a low-speed bottleneck on this high-traffic section of the Northeast Corridor. In 2017, after the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Record of Decision for a new four-track tunnel system to replace the existing B&P Tunnel.