Amtrak tunnel replacement to cost $4B
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.