$4B Amtrak tunnel replacement project in Baltimore has begun

June 21, 2021 GMT

BALTIMORE (AP) — Replacing Amtrak’s Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel will take a least a decade or more to complete. But the $4 billion rail project has officially begun. And officials say it will eliminate the biggest passenger rail bottleneck between Washington and New Jersey.

The Baltimore Sun reports that officials kicked off the project’s official start at an event on Friday that included the great-great-granddaughter of Frederick Douglass.

The tunnel will be renamed after the famed abolitionist. Douglass had escaped the bonds of slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and eventually boarded a New York-bound train from Baltimore in 1838.

“If it had not been for the railroad,” Nettie Washington Douglass told The Sun in an interview, “I would not be standing here.”

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Jeffrey Ensor, Amtrak’s senior director for the south end of the Northeast Corridor, said the new tunnel will increase train speeds to more than 100 mph from 30 mph.

Construction will be funded by the federal and state government because the tunnel is used by Amtrak and MARC passengers. Negotiations are underway to determine how much each government will contribute.