Am­trak tun­nel re­place­ment to cost $4B

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Scott Dance The As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle. sdance@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ss­dance

The Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to go ahead with a $4 bil­lion project to re­place a 143-year-old Am­trak tun­nel that passes un­der West Bal­ti­more and is a ma­jor bot­tle­neck in the rail cor­ri­dor from Boston to Wash­ing­ton.

The agency’s pre­ferred route for a new Bal­ti­more & Po­tomac Tun­nel would take it in a wide arc be­neath neigh­bor­hoods in­clud­ing Reser­voir Hill, Penn North and Sand­town-Winch­ester, dis­plac­ing 22 homes, five of which are va­cant, ac­cord­ing to a fi­nal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment.

The new tun­nel would re­place the ex­ist­ing 1.4-mile tun­nel be­neath Bolton Hill and Sand­town-Winch­ester, al­low­ing more trains to pass through and at faster speeds.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is ac­cept­ing public com­ments on its plan through late De­cem­ber, be­fore de­cid­ing next spring whether to ap­prove it.

At public hear­ings held this past spring, res­i­dents said they feared that noise and vi­bra­tion from the trains would dis­rupt their com­mu­ni­ties.

A group called Res­i­dents Against the Tun­nels plans to ask for an ex­tra month to re­view the plan, said its pres­i­dent, Reser­voir Hill res­i­dent Kathy Ep­ple.

Ep­ple said she also is con­cerned about haz­ardous freight that could pass dozens of feet be­low homes.

“I think a lot of peo­ple aren’t re­ally aware of this project yet, or they just think it’s go­ing to be harm­less pas­sen­ger trains,” she said.

Fed­eral and state of­fi­cials are host­ing two in­for­ma­tional ses­sions about the tun­nel plans next week: from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at Mount Royal Ele­men­tary/Mid­dle School and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 10 at Carver Vo­ca­tional-Tech­ni­cal High School. City po­lice chief Kelvin Sewell was con­victed of mis­con­duct and sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion. A jury ac­quit­ted him on a charge of con­spir­acy. Sewell and for­mer Po­comoke Po­lice Lt. Lynell Green were in­dicted in July on mis­con­duct charges re­lat­ing to a Nov. 21, 2014, crash. Pros­e­cu­tors say the two pres­sured sub­or­di­nate of­fi­cers to re­port a hi­tand-run in­ci­dent as a sim­ple ac­ci­dent be­cause the driver was a friend. Green is sched­uled to be tried Dec. 19. Sewell’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued in court pa­pers that the pros­e­cu­tion was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Sewell, a for­mer Bal­ti­more homi­cide de­tec­tive who was named Po­comoke’s first black po­lice chief in 2011, had filed work­place race dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaints and then was fired with­out ex­pla­na­tion in the sum­mer of 2015. He then filed a fed­eral law­suit against Po­comoke and Worces­ter County of­fi­cials. The crim­i­nal charges against him were filed by that county’s state prose­cu­tor’s of­fice less than six months af­ter the law­suit, on al­le­ga­tions that dated to Novem­ber 2014. The city state prose­cu­tor’s of­fice has de­clined to com­ment on the ac­cu­sa­tions.

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