Jump to content
afigg

Baltimore B&P tunnel replacement study

Recommended Posts

There is news on the Baltimore B&P Tunnel replacement study. The $60 million environmental and engineering design study now has a website at http://www.bptunnel.com/. The first public outreach meeting is in Baltimore on June 19.

Amtrak news release: STUDY TO IMPROVE BALTIMORE AND POTOMAC TUNNEL ALONG BUSY NORTHEAST CORRIDOR IN BALTIMORE ENTERS NEW PHASE

Excerpts from the news release which has quotes from multiple politicians and agency heads which I am skipping in the excerpt.

BALTIMORE, MD (June 11, 2014) – Working to improve rail service, reliability and address a longstanding bottleneck along Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Amtrak are advancing an engineering and environmental study to examine various improvements to the 141-year-old Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland.
....
The study, which will be complete in mid 2017, will include development and evaluation of various alternatives based on the need to enhance rail safety and to improve capacity, reliability and travel time for commuter, freight and intercity passenger rail service on the NEC. Alternatives will include the No Action Alternative, as well as a full array of Build Alternatives such as rehabilitation of the existing tunnel and a new tunnel on new alignment.
....
The study also involves development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which examines various alternatives while considering environmental and community impacts. The project also will be subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 and other applicable environmental laws and regulations. FRA is leading development of the EIS in close coordination with MDOT and other stakeholders.

There is not much on the project website at this point. I would expect the early work will replicate the FRA report from several years ago on the Baltimore tunnels and the options for replacing the B&P tunnel and the CSX owned Howard St tunnel. Building a new tunnel and then rebuilding the B&P tunnel is a critical project to keep the NEC operating between WAS and BAL.

Edited by afigg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gah!

 

I don't mind studies but I really don't understand why we have to redo the same studies more than once.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gah!

 

I don't mind studies but I really don't understand why we have to redo the same studies more than once.

 

Because this is America... We do things more then once that involve millions of dollars..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gah!

 

I don't mind studies but I really don't understand why we have to redo the same studies more than once.

The FRA report was effectively an alternative analysis study for new passenger and freight routes through Baltimore. But I doubt that it had the funds to do a in-depth geology survey for the proposed great circle route of the new passenger tunnel. It presumably relied on existing maps. The new tunnel in their proposal would not run under a street, but as a circle route fairly deep under existing buildings and infrastructure.

 

Before they start designing the tunnel, makes some sense to go back and re-examine the alternatives and perform geology, soil, and infrastructure surveys to make sure that boring out the tunnel is not going to run into unexpected water pipes, abandoned deep wells or undermine the foundations of the buildings. It would quite embarrassing while digging the tunnel to encounter unstable rock and have 1/2 a city block sag down into a hole created by the tunnel.

 

This is a $60 million full up environmental analysis and preliminary engineering study for what will probably be a $1.25 to $1.5 billion tunnel project before it is done. The study is also expanded from the 2011 FRA report by the decision to keep the B&P tunnel operational by closing and rebuilding it after the new tunnel is operations. The study and the engineering have to be thorough. Of course, this is a NEPA study, so there will be components that are of dubious relevance to a tunnel going deep under a city that won't take that much existing land or have an economic impact on the neighborhoods above the new tunnel.

 

But the NEPA process in the US these days has to spend a considerable amount of effort dotting the i's and crossing the t's on almost every imaginable aspect, and then doing it all over again, so it can pass muster when challenged in court by NIMBYs and those opposed to it.

 

BTW, for those interested, the Susquehanna Rail Bridge replacement project study opened a website a few (?) months ago. Both of these NEPA and PE studies are slated to be completed in or by 2017. With the NEC Gateway project likely completing a substantial portion of its environmental and engineering study by 2017 or 2018, there is going to be a collision of critical major NEC infrastructure projects that completed their Tier II FEIS competing for federal funds at that time if a new NEC capital program has not been set up by then. Meanwhile the (north) Portal bridge replacement project is not funded.

Edited by afigg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Draft Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report has been posted to the B&P Tunnel project study website in connection to a public open house meeting held on October 29. Direct link to the 5 MB 61 page PDF report.

 

In summary, they reviewed a wide range of alternative routes and options, most of which could be rejected pretty quickly. There are many maps in the report of the possible routes for a new tunnel that some may be interested in checking out. The screening narrowed the alternatives down to 4 alternatives:

1. No-Build. Has to be included in these kind of studies, but not a viable long term option as the existing tunnel is continuing to deteriorate.

2. Restore/Rehabilitate Existing B&P Tunnel. I figure they are including this so the scoping and cost estimates for rebuilding the B&P tunnel after the new tunnel is built are included in the study outcome.

3. Great Circle Passenger Tunnel. 10,400 foot long tunnel with a 2% grade. This is the route proposed in the FRA study.

11. Robert Street South tunnel. 9,500 foot long tunnel over a straighter route but present challenges crossing under the Howard Street, Jones Fall Expressway, and CSX bridges and would require a significant re-alignment of the Penn station platforms.

 

They did include an Rt. 40 route alternative 5 that would go under Rt. 40 through Baltimore, but this would require an entirely new station and pass north of the downtown core.

 

As an FYI, The engineering criteria for the tunnel alternatives were:

1. Tunnel Separation: Minimum separation between existing rail lines and the proposed tunnel is 30 to 40 feet.
2. Tunnel Clearance: Ability to accommodate Plate H clearance for either twin single-track tunnels or a single double-track tunnel.
3. Horizontal Curvature: Allows for design speed of 40 miles per hour or greater.
4. Vertical Grade: Maximum vertical compensated grade not to exceed 2%.
5. Maintain West Baltimore MARC: Alternative is capable of serving the West Baltimore MARC commuter rail station.
6. Maintain Track Grade at Penn Station: Does not alter existing track alignments at Penn Station.
7. Impacts to Physical Constraints: Constraints include MTA Metro tunnel, MTA Light Rail, CSX track under Howard Street, the Jones Falls Bridge, Jones Falls Expressway and the Howard Street Bridge.
8. Separated Right-of-Way: Tunnels are on physically separate ROW within a well-protected perimeter.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How many studies have been done of the renovation of the B&P tunnels over the past 30 years? I seem to remember at least 2 others. Why not straigten them out and study that. They are ancient. In Europe they would have rebuilt them years ago.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest NS

Exactly! It takes way too long to get anything built in the USA anymore because of endless and unnecessary studies. Enough already. Get to work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Gah!

 

I don't mind studies but I really don't understand why we have to redo the same studies more than once.

 

Because this is America... We do things more then once that involve millions of dollars..

 

Like the carpenter's say...."measure twice, cut once"...... ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly! It takes way too long to get anything built in the USA anymore because of endless and unnecessary studies. Enough already. Get to work.

Following up on this question, because the previous FRA study was only a high level feasibility study. The new study is a more comprehensive engineering and environmental study to advance to a selected route and preliminary design with a valid cost estimate.

 

The replacement tunnel will not be going under or through empty fields. It will be going under a city and will involve the taking of property, likely some private residences. It can't be designed nor built without looking at its impact and what might in the way.

 

The Baltimore Sun has an article on the 2 alternative routes for the tunnel and the impact it might have on the struggling neighborhoods at the proposed entrances and above the routes: Options for B&P tunnel replacement narrow as Amtrak considers future. Starting excerpt:

 

State and federal officials narrowed the options for replacing an old Baltimore tunnel that bottlenecks East Coast passenger rail to two, one of which could displace residents of a poor west-side neighborhood already plagued by vacant homes.

 

The two proposals, both of which would require extensive tunneling, were shortlisted recently as part of an engineering and environmental review aimed at replacing the nearly 150-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel, which twists under the city, slowing traffic along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

 

What Baltimore needs is a quality and comprehensive rail transit system, but that is another topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if these studies involve actual geological test bores and stuff like that, that's OK then. If it's just more looking-at-pieces-of-paper, it really does seem redundant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if these studies involve actual geological test bores and stuff like that, that's OK then. If it's just more looking-at-pieces-of-paper, it really does seem redundant.

What do you think they are spending the $60 million on? There are many questions on the route, ROW, soil and geology, existing building and underground infrastructure and design issues that have to be answered before the preliminary design can be completed.

 

The problem is that according to the NEC Commission Five Year Capital Needs Assessment for FY15-FY19 that was published a couple of months ago is that $60 million is not enough. Quote: "The Assessment identified $130 million in capital needs over the next five years to complete preliminary engineering, environmental review, and design, which could enable construction to begin just outside the five-year window." So Amtrak and MD will need to find another $70 million to advance the tunnel replacement process to final design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The plan could also spur efforts to rebuild a community of abandoned rowhouses and unused industrial land

The previously favored “Great Circle” plan to replace Amtrak’s 19th century tunnel in West Baltimore called for maximizing tunneling to minimize surface disruption.

Now a new plan calls for a shorter tunnel which would cut a swath through the Midtown-Edmondson neighborhood.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Well, if these studies involve actual geological test bores and stuff like that, that's OK then. If it's just more looking-at-pieces-of-paper, it really does seem redundant.

What do you think they are spending the $60 million on?

 

In other studies, I've seen that much spent on paperwork and talking to people, with not a single surveyor or digger involved. :-P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

The plan could also spur efforts to rebuild a community of abandoned rowhouses and unused industrial land

The previously favored “Great Circle” plan to replace Amtrak’s 19th century tunnel in West Baltimore called for maximizing tunneling to minimize surface disruption.

Now a new plan calls for a shorter tunnel which would cut a swath through the Midtown-Edmondson neighborhood.

 

 

 

It frankly sounds, from the discussion on the West Baltimore station, like the use/non-use of that station should not have been a significant consideration (and any plans refocused on working around a new station in the general area and/or just having some trains skip it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It frankly sounds, from the discussion on the West Baltimore station, like the use/non-use of that station should not have been a significant consideration (and any plans refocused on working around a new station in the general area and/or just having some trains skip it).

The MARC West Baltimore station is a key connection to the planned Baltimore Red Line light rail. Amtrak is not going to stop there (for the foreseeable future), but the MARC Penn Line trains will. If the Red Line project is not killed or delayed for 4 years by Gov.-elect Hogan, then in 8 years or so, people can take MARC to/from DC or New Carrolton to West Baltimore, then take the Red Line LRT to/from downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. Will make rail trips between downtown Baltimore and DC easier and faster.

 

The plan to rebuild and expand the West Baltimore station with high level platforms are tied to the Red Line project, which is why West Baltimore is the only station left with short low level platforms between WAS and Baltimore Penn Station. Since the plan is going to be to keep the B&P tunnel and refurb/rebuild it after the new tunnel opens*, I don't see how the Robert Street South alternative (#11 in the report) is going to straighten out the tracks at West Baltimore. The station will have to be south of the split to the two tunnels.

 

* Yes, they are "studying" alternatives to refurb/rebuild the B&P tunnel, but since the new tunnel will have 2 tracks, the B&P tunnel is going to be kept to provide additional (slower) tracks and redundancy. I think that decision is already baked in, but they have to study it to dot the i's, cross the t's, and get a record of decision approving rebuilding the B&P.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The B&P tunnel replacement study had a Public Open House with Display Boards on June 16. The display boards have been posted to the website, but can only be read by clicking on one display board at a time, which is a bit tedious as these boards take time to load. But there is a lot of info in the display boards.

 

There has been significant advancements in the requirements and design. And in cost. The big change is that the track requirements have been changed to have 4 tracks through west Baltimore with the renderings of the new tunnel alternatives all showing 4 new tracks. And 4 separate tunnel bores for Alternatives 3 & 11.

 

The Evaluation Matrix (1 of 2) board shows the trip time reductions for the Acela, Regionals, and MARC for each alternative, depth & lengths of the new tunnels, and that all the alternative routes will have a 2% grade. The trip time savings differ between north and southbound and each alternative. Alt 3A. which would be the least disruptive in terms of property taking in Baltimore, would reduce Acela times by 1:44 SB, 2:08 NB (mm:ss not hours & minutes, of course).

 

The FRA study looked at 2 new tunnels and came up with a $1.25 billion plus ballpark IIRC. With 4 tracks and 4 tunnels, the estimated capital cost estimates has gone up, although it should be noted that the cost estimates are in YOE 2023 dollars, which in turn is probably based on a baseline 2,5% or 3% construction cost inflation rate. The YOE 2023 estimate for the alternatives range from $3.7 billion to $4.2 billion. And Japan is pushing a DC to Baltimore maglev with a sheer fantasy price tag of circa $10 billion and somehow got Gov, Hogan (R-MD) all excited about the idea. Oh well.

 

Edit: to help those wondering what the Alternatives & the possible tunnel routes are, here is the link to the Alternatives Carried Forward from Preliminary Screening board.

Edited by afigg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You know, honestly, I can think of much more effective places to spend 4 billion dollars. How many of the regional high-sped rail corridor programs could we fund with $4 billion? How many commuter lines?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Three comments:
(1) The maglev is SHINY! and therefore getting lots of attention, especially since it is being pitched as SHINY! and FREE!...which means that of course the Governor is going to get excited about it.

(2) The replacement tunnels are in the laundry list of major, needed NEC work to both bolster capacity for Amtrak, MARC, etc. and to avoid major failures. Let's not forget that those tunnels are marching towards 150 years old. This project isn't as urgent as the Hudson tunnels, but

(3) With 2 being noted, I do agree that there's a value to spreading the money around. Thinking about it, ideally you'd either match NEC funding with "elsewhere" funding (corridors, HSR, and LD stuff alike) or roughly match all three pots in some manner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Three comments:

(1) The maglev is SHINY! and therefore getting lots of attention, especially since it is being pitched as SHINY! and FREE!...which means that of course the Governor is going to get excited about it.

(2) The replacement tunnels are in the laundry list of major, needed NEC work to both bolster capacity for Amtrak, MARC, etc. and to avoid major failures. Let's not forget that those tunnels are marching towards 150 years old. This project isn't as urgent as the Hudson tunnels, but

(3) With 2 being noted, I do agree that there's a value to spreading the money around. Thinking about it, ideally you'd either match NEC funding with "elsewhere" funding (corridors, HSR, and LD stuff alike) or roughly match all three pots in some manner.

(3) Yes, and this is a problem.

 

I don't see how anyone can honestly expect Congress to invest $100 Billion or so making the NEC a true HSR route. Those who argue to drop the rest of Amtrak and concentrate everything on the NEC are playing a trick: Without spending spread around across the country, there will be NO passenger rail spending at all, so good-bye to all of Amtrak, NEC included.

 

But let's focus on a few things here. If the new tunnels will cost roughly $4 Billion, that's not huge money for a country what spends more than $6 Trillion a year local, state, and federal levels.

 

$4,000,000,000

$6,000,000,000,000

 

Not even 1/1000 of the yearly total.

 

So spread the $4 Billion over 3 or 4 years and it's almost painless. LOL.

 

​But then, $4 Billion for the Baltimore tunnels; another $4 Billion elsewhere on the NEC during the same period; another $4 Billion in the Midwest (South of the Lake could drink up half of that, Phase Two of St Louis-Chicago and a few more BREATE projects can mop up the remainder; $1 Billion for Phase Two Cascades route, $3 Billion for California routes (HSR or regular Amtrak); $1 Billion Long Bridge and D.C.-Richmond; $1 Billion on SEHSR Richmond-Raleigh; $2 Billion for new (and more) equipment to replace the aging coaches etc.

 

Spreading the honey around that way gets us to about $20 Billion over 3 or 4 years.

 

The crazies would go crazy.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's not forget that those tunnels are marching towards 150 years old.

What the hell is wrong with them? Most tunnels last forever. Were these tunnels just built really, really badly? I doubt it.

 

The Hudson tunnels were flooded with salt water. Plus, they're iron tubes buried in mud. That's a real problem.

 

The B&P tunnels are carved out of stone. Most tunnels of this sort are *extremely durable*. And they were relined in the 1980s, with drainage improved.

 

Sure, they're slow and form a delay point on the NEC, but they're *just fine* and will last another 100 years with standard maintenance. Is anyone really claiming they'll collapse?

 

So spend 4 billion to increase capacity on the NEC and save a couple of minutes? Nice to have, but not a high priority.

 

Do something useful with that money: spend it on buying the NY Central and Pennsy mainlines from NS and CSX so we can start making some real progress on NY-Chicago passenger rail.

 

 

I don't see how anyone can honestly expect Congress to invest $100 Billion or so making the NEC a true HSR route. Those who argue to drop the rest of Amtrak and concentrate everything on the NEC are playing a trick: Without spending spread around across the country, there will be NO passenger rail spending at all, so good-bye to all of Amtrak, NEC included.

It is a trick, yes. Heck, I live 230 miles from the NEC and I would not be interested in supporting endless billions for miniscule travel time improvements on the NEC and nothing for the rest of the country. Empire Corridor? Keystone Corridor? Virginia Corridors?

Edited by neroden

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not arguing about money but:

Stonework 150 years ago -- the mortar used then had too much lime and lime and water don't mix well. Consequently there is a lot of water entering the tunnel fro above. the tunnel floor does not drain well and there has already been several times one track has had to be taken out of service with long delays and cancellations. If a water main in Baltimore should break above the tunnel such as happened in the Howard street tunnel might be long shutdown.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The B&P tunnels are not deep bore solid rock tunnels, the image below is for the Pressman St Alignment, a few blocks removed from the existing tunnels, but largely the same type of profile. A lot of cut and cover, mixed face tunnel, and only about 25% rock tunnel (with only a max of 30 ft of rock overhead mind you), but not exactly deep and stable. The walls are masonry, and they lowered the floor and underpinned the walls in 1916 (not an easy task today, let alone 100 years ago!). The PRR wanted to replace the tunnels in the 1930s before NEC electrification because of the leaks, but couldn't afford to. Water leaks in, and in the winter freezes further damaging the tunnel structure. There are utilities and other transit tunnels in close proximity to the B&P which doesn't help things, especially leaky piping and sewer lines. If you have ever ridden through the tunnels, you can see how rough looking they are from the inside. I would guess that the chances of a catastrophic failure of the B&P tunnels is a heck of a lot more likely than a catastrophic failure for the North River tubes. Also, since its a single bore, all it takes is a single failure to stop all traffic between Baltimore and DC for a long time, there isn't any quick easy fix. Even if you lose 1 of the North River tubes, you could still maintain service through one of them. Bottom line is that the B&P tunnels need to be replaced

post-1538-0-03702300-1435000179_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure, they're slow and form a delay point on the NEC, but they're *just fine* and will last another 100 years with standard maintenance. Is anyone really claiming they'll collapse?

 

So spend 4 billion to increase capacity on the NEC and save a couple of minutes? Nice to have, but not a high priority.

To add to the replies, yes, that is what the engineers are saying about the B&P tunnels. You must have forgotten about the emergency repair job on the eroding trackbed last December (or around then) where 1 track was closed at a time leaving the NEC as a 1 track railroad west of BAL. Amtrak minimized the schedule delays to its trains, but MARC took it in the neck.

 

The 2011 FRA report on the Baltimore Railroad Network stated this in the summary on the existing B&P tunnel:

 

Concerning the B&P Tunnel, there is no realistic No-Build Scenario. The physical condition of the tunnel requires that it be rebuilt or replaced within the next 10-20 years. Rebuilding would contradict the fundamentals of engineering economy. The tunnels basic geometry was substandard when it was completed and is irremediable by any reasonable amount of rehabilitation.

The B&P tunnel is one of the highest priority concerns on the NEC along with the Hudson River tunnels and the Portal bridge replacement in that one of them could fail shutting down or crippling the southern NEC for years. Hence the $60 million replacement study.

 

In the FRA report and in the previous presentations on replacing the B&P tunnel, the concept was a new 2 track tunnel with a possible rebuild of the B&P tunnel to a 1 or 2 track tunnel (after traffic could be moved to the new tunnels). That has changed with 4 new tracks & tunnels for each alternatives. With 4 new tracks, it would make no sense to rebuild the B&P tunnel. I think those conducting the study have internally reached the conclusion that it is not worth it to rebuild the B&P tunnel and keep it in service. The study still has to look at rebuilding the B&P tunnels, but I suspect they are only doing so to document the reasons for shutting the B&P tunnel down and repurposing it (if that is feasible).

 

In the design boards, all 4 tunnels would be built for plate H clearances. One way to trim costs a bit would be to build 2 tunnels, probably on the northern side to double stack clearances and make the other 2 tunnels smaller with Amtrak/MARC clearances. With the double stack clearances, they are obviously looking to have CSX contribute to the project in return for a route for container trains through Baltimore that would be available to CSX outside of the peak traffic periods. CSX would have to increase clearances from Baltimore to south of Philly, but that would be up to CSX to tackle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×