The Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a railroad tunnel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line between Penn Station and the West Baltimore MARC Station. In operation since it first opened in 1873, the B&P tunnel is used today by Amtrak trains, MARC Commuter Rail passenger trains and Norfolk Southern Railway freight trains. Unfortunately, the tunnel is also a bottle-neck along the Northeast Corridor affecting the reliability of rail service in Baltimore and beyond.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Amtrak are currently conducting an engineering and environmental study to review a range of options to modify or replace the existing tunnel. The initial report released in October 2014 identified two alternatives to move forward for further study: Alternative 3, Great Circle Passenger Tunnel; and Alternative 11, Robert Street South. Both alternatives affect historic buildings and neighborhoods in West Baltimore through demolition or other adverse affects.
Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel, Baltimore, MD
In Alternative 11, Amtrak proposes to relocate the southern portal two blocks east into the center of the Midtown Edmondson neighborhood. This design would require the demolition of blocks of historic rowhouses, vernacular commercial buildings, and significant industrial structures located within the proposed Midtown Edmondson Historic District.
Baltimore Heritage is concerned that Alternative 11 appears to call for demolition of a significant number of historic buildings at the southern portal. This demolition would seriously undermine efforts to revitalize historic neighborhoods around the West Baltimore MARC Station. The Great Circle Passenger Tunnel (Alternative 3) appears to have a more limited impact on historic resources.
The origins of the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel begin in 1858, when Charles County planters pushed for the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad to connect their farms to markets in Baltimore. Progress remained slow until 1867, when the Pennsylvania Railroad Company bought the business. In July 1872, the completion of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel (below Winchester and Wilson Streets) enabled the B&P Railroad to start service between Baltimore and Washington, DC. In 1983, the MARC train joined the list of commuter trains that have used those same tracks, ensuring the continued popularity of the station for travelers today. The tunnel passes under a number of historic West Baltimore neighborhoods including Bolton Hill, Madison Park, Sandtown Winchester, Harlem Park and Midtown Edmondson.Read more at Explore Baltimore Heritage
Last Updated: February 6, 2016
The Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report documents the preliminary alternatives phase of the project and is an important step for developing the project alternatives that will be evaluated in an Alternatives Report and the Environmental Impact Statement. The PASR presents the process by which an initial range of 16 preliminary alternatives were identified, including an alternative suggested by the public at the October 29, 2014 open house. The alternatives were evaluated using screening criteria and narrowed to four alternatives to be carried forward for further design development and environmental evaluation.
Previous studies on Baltimore’s rail network and the Northeast Corridor are available on the B&P Tunnel Project website.
- 141-Year-Old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel Topic Of $60M Federal Study, June 12, 2014, CBS Baltimore
- Options for B&P tunnel replacement narrow as Amtrak considers future, November 19, 2014, Baltimore Sun.
- From vibrations to mosquitoes, plans to replace B&P tunnel draw concerns, December 9, 2014, Baltimore Sun.
- Amtrak CEO says B&P tunnel replacement study may be ‘waste of time’ given lack of funding, December 19, 2014, Baltimore Sun.