Following years of delays, Amtrak and the state of Maryland have officially begun a project to replace the aging Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, which is blamed for constant delays and slowdowns in the area of West Baltimore.
The $4 billion project will create a new connector serving Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and MARC Train service. It will be named the Frederick Douglass Tunnel.
“The [B&P] tunnel has served the Northeast Corridor well for many years but it’s reaching the end of its useful life,” said Jeff Ensor, senior director for the south end of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to WTOP.
The B&P Tunnel, which was constructed 150 years ago, has been repeatedly repaired by Amtrak and requires numerous inspections and maintenance.
“This is the biggest bottleneck between Washington and New Jersey,” says Ensor. “When we build the new tunnel we’re going to see significant improvement in performance.”
Ensor says the comprehensive tunnel project, which will primarily be constructed with federal funding, will transform approximately 4 miles to “increase speed, reliability and capacity” and also lead to a new West Baltimore MARC station.
For local riders, it could lead to a serious reduction in commuting times.
“When MARC electrifies its trains and we have the new tunnel online, there’s potential for MARC trains to have express service that could have train travel between Baltimore and Washington in less than 30 minutes,” Ensor said.
Amtrak expects the project to be completed in approximately a decade so long as federal funding is pumped into the project, which would also lead to tens of thousands of construction jobs.