President Biden to boost replacement of deteriorating 150-year-old Baltimore tunnel Monday

Eugene Mulero has more on the significance of President Biden's visit to the Baltimore tunnel.

A nearly 150-year-old tunnel is expected to get a makeover under the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law and President Joe Biden is set to visit the Maryland landmark Monday to boost the bipartisan agreement.

The Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel is one of the oldest tunnels in the Amtrak rail system and among the biggest bottlenecks on the heavily traveled East Coast rail corridor between D.C. and New York.

President Joe Biden is expected to make the trip to Baltimore on Monday to discuss how money from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to fund a major project that will replace the tunnel to bring some relief to commuters in and around the D.C. region.

“It’s actually reached the end of its lifespan after being rehabilitated about four decades ago,” said Transport Topics Senior Government Reporter Eugene Mulero, pointing out the tunnel opened during the Ulysses S. Grant administration.

Despite the regional economic significance of the tunnel, it also has some serious problems and has been deemed structurally deficient.

“It has some water system infiltration problems, the floor is sinking,” added Mulero.

According to Amtrak, the tunnel’s age also makes for chronic delays — more than 10% of weekday trains are delayed.

The infrastructure law includes $66 billion for rail programs, which includes highways, bridges and ports. The tunnel will be replaced with two additional tunnels over the decade, parallel to the existing infrastructure.

“It will not only equip Amtrak but also the MARC and Penn line in order to expand capacity on this vital line,” Mulero said. The new project will also take climate change into consideration and will be built to withstand major weather event.

The two new tubes will be named in honor of Frederick Douglass, a Maryland native who advocated for the rights of minorities and women, according to Amtrak’s website. Douglass escaped from slavery by boarding a train in Baltimore.

Biden is expected to head to New York on Tuesday to discuss how funding from the infrastructure law will improve reliability on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit.

WTOP’s Jessica Kronzer contributed to this report.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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