After a year of input from Baltimore residents and our continued work through the Section 106 preservation review process, we are seeing real changes to the B&P Tunnel Project. Two public meetings this month are an opportunity for you to get an update on the project including new alternatives for the ventilation plant sited for Reservoir Hill.
The recent release of a draft study on the B&P Tunnel project is an important opportunity for West Baltimore residents to share their comments on the draft. Learn more background about the B&P Tunnel project or read on for information on submitting comments and what is included in the draft report.
As we shared earlier this year, the planned replacement of the B&P Tunnel is a project with major consequences for historic West Baltimore neighborhoods. The current set of proposals could require the demolition of the American Ice Company, the Ward Baking Company building or whole blocks of rowhouses in the Midtown Edmondson neighborhood. When demolition is unavoidable, the preservation review process known as Section 106 can secure an agreement that mitigates the harm the project may bring – by investing in community resources, preserving nearby buildings, or telling the stories of the history lost to demolition. If you live in West Baltimore, your comments on these alternatives are critically important to determining the future of the buildings and community around the proposed rail line.
What is Section 106? Since last fall, the B&P Tunnel project has been working through a review process required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Section 106 of the NHPA requires the Federal Railroad Administration to meet with the Maryland Historical Trust and a variety of interested parties and consider the effects of the proposed project on historic buildings and neighborhoods. A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review (PDF) from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation explains:
Section 106 requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve, or fund on historic properties… Section 106 review encourages, but does not mandate, preservation. Sometimes there is no way for a needed project to proceed without harming historic properties. Section 106 review does ensure that preservation values are factored into federal agency planning and decisions.
In meetings in July and August, the Federal Railroad Administration asked Baltimore Heritage and other consulting parties to consider the two remaining alternatives for the B&P Tunnel(with a total of five variations) and submit comments. What of these alternatives does the least harm? How can the effect of these proposals be mitigated? We’re asking your help in answering these questions by reviewing the alternatives below and sharing your comments with us and with the B&P Tunnel project team.
Have you heard about the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel project? One replacement proposed for this aging tunnel threatens to demolish several blocks of historic West Baltimore. Four public meetings in April offer opportunities to learn more about the project and share your views.
What is the B&P Tunnel Project?
The Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a railroad tunnel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line in use between Penn Station and the West Baltimore MARC Station for over 140 years. Today, the tunnel is used by Amtrak, MARC Commuter Rail and Norfolk Southern Railway. It is also a bottleneck affecting the reliability of rail service up and down the northeast. One proposed replacement to the B&P Tunnel (known as Alternative 11: Robert Street South) provokes serious concerns about the demolition of historic buildings in West Baltimore. Please come out to a public meeting this month to learn more about the B&P Tunnel project and voice your concerns about the long-term consequences of Alternative 11 on historic West Baltimore neighborhoods.
Last year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and Amtrak started work on a study to evaluate the condition of the existing tunnel and propose alternatives for rail service through Baltimore. After public meetings in June and October 2014, the project published a Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (pdf) that identified and evaluated 16 possible options (illustrated in the map below).
This preliminary review selected four alternatives to advance to a second round of review. Building nothing (Alternative 1) or rehabilitating the existing tunnel (Alternative 2) are two options that are unlikely to meet the long-term need for improved rail service. The two remaining options (Alternative 3: Great Circle Passenger Tunnel and Alternative 11: Robert Street South) both require expensive new tunnels. Unfortunately, Robert Street South also appears to require the demolition of several blocks of historic rowhouses within the proposed Midtown Edmondson National Register Historic District and demolition of the 1911 American Ice Company.
Learn more or share concerns at a public meeting in April
Starting next week, MDOT, FRA, Amtrak and the Baltimore City Department of Transportation are hosting a series of meetings to offer members of the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, ask questions and offer input on the process.
All four meetings are scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with a formal presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. The same information will be shared at each meeting in the series:
- Monday, April 13 at Gilmor Elementary, 1311 North Gilmor Street
- Tuesday, April 14 at Mt. Royal Elementary, 121 McMechen Street
- Monday, April 20 at Westside Elementary, 2235 North Fulton Avenue
- Tuesday, April 21 at Lockerman Bundy Elementary, 301 N. Pulaski Street
To be added to the project mailing list, or to submit your comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For other questions or for special accommodations at any of these upcoming public meetings, contact Ms. Odessa Phillip, PE, Environmental Project Manager at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation at (410) 396-6856 or Odessa.email@example.com.
More open house meetings are planned for this spring and summer. Additional background on this issue can be found on the project website, our own issue profile on the B&P Tunnel Project or The Baltimore Sun coverage from November 2014.
Built in 1911, the American Ice Company is an enduring reminder of West Baltimore’s industrial development with a striking brick facade on West Franklin Street and a powerhouse that backs up to the railroad tracks. Baltimore Heritage nominated this distressed landmark to the National Register of Historic Places last fall with support from the building’s owner. We just received notice that the building was successfully listed on the National Register on July 3!
As plans for the Baltimore Red Line continue to develop, we are optimistic that this factory has the potential to support the revitalization of the West Baltimore MARC Station Area and remain an iconic landmark for generations to come. Download the full National Register nomination to learn more about this unusual factory and the history of industrial ice-making in Baltimore.