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Baltimore B&P tunnel replacement study

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Thanks for this news!

 

The tunnel replacement study has advanced to settling on a revised Alternative 3B route.

WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today presented a revised proposal to replace the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel . . . two options have fallen (Alternative 3A and Alternative 3C) from consideration, and FRA will make several significant changes to Alternative 3B in the Final EIS.
....
The Final EIS, scheduled to be published later this year . . .

Since the FRA is the lead on the EIS, one would venture that the FRA can fast track the official Record Of Decision. So if there is a ROD in early to mid-2017, where does the $4 billion come from the build the new Baltimore tunnels?

Well, it gives me a titillation of an almost pornographic degree :giggle: to conjecture that the FRA has an answer for you! And they're hurrying the Record of Decision and everything else because they want somehow to make irrevocable spending commitments before January 20, 2017.

 

Maybe I'd better lie down for a few minutes and collect myself.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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Heard from the Baltimore Sun that the Howard Street Tunnel will be modified in the coming years in order to fit double-stack trains. Cost is expected to be only $425 million, a lot cheaper compared to the previous estimate of $1-3 billion.

 

So now the B&P Tunnel shouldn't need to be built to handle double stack trains, and hopefully this will lower the cost of that project.

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Not build to double stack clearances ? Save me a penny now pay you a dollar later. Howard street tunnel expansion is very problematic. One factor is when the new tunnel bores are built the old tunnel may be useable for MARC train storage. There is already a lack of storage tracks near the BAL station with some station tracks now used for storage. . If MARC does increase service once the 4 MT are built to WASH storage will become unavailable operationally due to planned additional Amtrak service.

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Heard from the Baltimore Sun that the Howard Street Tunnel will be modified in the coming years in order to fit double-stack trains. Cost is expected to be only $425 million, a lot cheaper compared to the previous estimate of $1-3 billion.

 

So now the B&P Tunnel shouldn't need to be built to handle double stack trains, and hopefully this will lower the cost of that project.

Here is the Baltimore Sun article on the proposal to rebuild the CSX Howard Street tunnel to increase the clearance: Maryland seeks $155 million from feds to clear freight bottleneck beneath Baltimore. Thanks for posting about the article, I was not aware of the CSX initiative. Excerpts:

The state and the railroad CSX Transportation have agreed to a plan to remove a bottleneck for freight shipping beneath the streets of Baltimore and have requested $155 million in federal funding to help pay for the project they say will boost the Maryland economy.

 

State and railroad officials have pledged to contribute $270 million toward expanding the 1.7-mile Howard Street Tunnel. The additional clearance would allow shipping containers from the port of Baltimore, for the first time, to be stacked two-high atop trains, a far more efficient way to move them.

.....

Recent advances in engineering now make it possible to increase the tunnel's clearances with much of the construction underground and for much less money, Renjel said.

 

"We're underground the whole time — that was a game changer," he said.

 

The project's cost plunged to an estimated $425 million. The state Department of Transportation and CSX would pay about 60 percent.

"While the figure is more manageable than earlier estimates, limited financial resources and competing funding needs prevent MDOT and CSX from funding the project entirely on our own," wrote Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn in the application letter for federal funds dated Wednesday.

 

The state is seeking part of $800 million in grant funding available from the U.S. Department of Transportation's FASTLANE program. The deadline for the grants was Thursday.

If CSX gets the FASTLANE grant, or gets the funding assembled via other sources in the next several years, that could affect the planning for the B&P tunnel replacement. Since the proposed alternative is to bore out 4 separate tunnels, one option for future capacity protection would be to bore out just 1 or 2 tunnels for Plate H doublestack clearances and the others for smaller clearances. Or drop any plans for Plate H entirely. How much that would reduce the cost? Not a clue.

 

However, CSX rebuilding the Howard Street Tunnel locks in the tunnel for continued freight train use for many decades to come. Which means downtown Baltimore remains at risk of a derailment and tunnel fire. And that the tunnel could not be repurposed for use by the light rail line which has been suggested and considered in the past. With Governor Hogan in charge, not going to give any thought to that angle.

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Right now especially after the new Howard Street Tunnel Double Stack Project coming up it doesn't really make sense for double stack clearance.

 

First, there's no connection to the existing CSX lines at either end (in particular the northern end due to the elevation).

 

Second, the lesser known but equally important Union Tunnel to the east of Penn Station may not be double stack compatible anyways. And it looks like that project is a lower priority than either the B&P Tunnel, or any of the bridge replacement or additional track projects in Maryland and frankly on the rest of the NEC as well. Also, while one of the Union Tunnels (single track one) is as old as the B&P Tunnel, the other double track one is a lot newer, having been built in 1934 as part of the PRR electrification project.

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Wouldn't you think this project is needed so Superliners can fit through the B&P Tunnel?

No. Nobody thinks that. Nobody.

 

To take the Superliners where? As explained about 1,000 times on this site, you can't get a Superliner into NY Penn Station.

 

To fix that, you could dig out under each track to make it lower. (You can't raise the ceiling over the tracks because you have Madison Square Garden and a large office building atop that.) While redigging Penn Station, and working carefully between support columns for the massive structures above, at least one track and one or two platforms would be out of order. And how many Billions for that project? Nah, single level cars work pretty well across the Eastern system. No need to rebuild tens of Billions of tunnels and bridges and stations to run bi-levels.

 

But if you remain unconvinced, use the search feature top right, enter "Superliners" "Penn Station" "NYP" and find informative comments by others far more informed than I am.

 

Meanwhile, plan on re-excavating tunnels in D.C., and in Philly, and of course under the Hudson. Oh, and that concrete box they built to protect the Gateway Tunnels-into-Penn Station, that wasn't built for Superliners either. So rebuild that before it's ever been used? How you gonna rebuild that? It was built specifically because it will soon be topped by high-rise office buildings.

 

We have many dreams of how to spend the Billions we can't get from Congress, but this notion to rebuild the NEC for Superliners is absolutely the last and the least worthy of them all.

 

Now, don't try this again or I'll tell you how I really feel about it. :giggle:

 

btw I'm sure I asked basically the same question years ago, and got an even more abrupt reply. LOL.

Edited by WoodyinNYC

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I don't see how reducing the clearance would appreciably affect the cost, which at that point becomes more of a "why not?" kind of decision. In aviation, the most useless things are the altitude above you, the runway behind you, and the fuel you left back at the airport. An analog of one of those in railroading is the clearance you didn't plan for.

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That sure is a weird analogy or simile, but whatever :)

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I don't see how reducing the clearance would appreciably affect the cost, which at that point becomes more of a "why not?" kind of decision. In aviation, the most useless things are the altitude above you, the runway behind you, and the fuel you left back at the airport. An analog of one of those in railroading is the clearance you didn't plan for.

Um, not sure what the aviation references mean in this case as the width and length of the runway in front of you matter a lot when you land.

 

As for the clearance and diameter of the tunnel, it obviously affects construction costs. A larger bore tunnel might have to go deeper to avoid obstructions and maintain structural support of the buildings above it. Plate H clearance is 20'2" on the center axis. Digging up the 2011 FRA report on the Baltimore tunnels and the options to replace the B&P tunnel, there is a tunnel size diagram which has a minimum interior diameter of 25.8" needed for a single track Plate H clearance bored tunnel. So guess estimate a 27' diameter bore as a minimum needed for Plate H for room for the concrete lining.

 

If the tunnel is sized for Plate F with 17' clearance, let's use a 24' diameter for the tunnel bore estimate. Apply some basic math for volume of a cylinder and compute relative volumes. The 27' diameter tunnel has a 26.5% larger volume than the 24' diameter tunnel. That is 26.5% more rock and dirt to dig out & move and proportionally more concrete and rebar for the lining of the tunnel. And a larger air volume in the tunnels for the air plant to handle. So, yea, there will be a cost difference in building tunnels for Plate H clearance versus Plate F. Or plate C at 15'6" which is the current clearance for the B&P tunnels. There will be costs in the height of the access portals to the new tunnels and various clearances of the NEC leading to the new tunnels.

 

With a $4 billion preliminary cost estimate, there will be pressure to cut costs. Opting for Plate F clearance which would still be sufficient for single level freight traffic would be one way to do that. I don't know is how much it would save. But it would cut the total cost by something measurable.

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The tunnel replacement study has advanced to settling on a revised Alternative 3B route.

 

First, there is new material and updates to the design alternatives that will be presented at April public meetings. Alternative 3C has been eliminated. Both 3A and 3B have undergone revisions with 3B undergoing a lot of changes to reduce the impact on property taking with a shifted route for the tunnels.

 

Slide comparing 3A and 3B original vs revised with the property impact and projected trip time reductions.

 

Even before the second April public meeting, the FRA has issued a news release that the project team has decided on revised Alternative B. Which I find somewhat odd as typically the final alternative is not publicly selected until the study process has tediously ground through all the public meetings and getting comments from umpteen rounds of meetings. US DOT/FRA press release: FRA Releases Revised Proposal to Rebuild B&P Tunnel After Receiving Input From Baltimore Community. Excerpt:

WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today presented a revised proposal to replace the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel based on feedback provided to the FRA by Baltimore residents during three public hearings in February. In December 2015, the FRA presented three options for replacing the tunnel in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Based on feedback during three recent meetings in February and 19 public hearings, open houses, project and community association meetings during the last two years, two options have fallen (Alternative 3A and Alternative 3C) from consideration, and FRA will make several significant changes to Alternative 3B in the Final EIS.

....

The FRA will continue to work with the public over the next several months to mitigate the effects of the project. The Final EIS, scheduled to be published later this year, will include this coordination and the resulting mitigation plans and environmental commitments.

Since the FRA is the lead on the EIS, one would venture that the FRA can fast track the official Record Of Decision. So if there is a ROD in early to mid-2017, where does the $4 billion come from the build the new Baltimore tunnels?

 

Good question. The recently approved FAST Act permits New Starts funding to be allocated to transportation projects that benefit not just mass transit

(such as the Second Avenue Subway) but also projects that benefit both Mass Transit and passenger rail (such as Gateway).

 

I wonder if a 50--50 split will eventually be approved, such as with what recently happened with the Gateway Development Corporation (see http://www.panynj.gov/press-room/press-item.cfm?headLine_id=2388)

 

Perhaps Amtrak and the USDOT will split the costs 50--50 with MARC and the state of Maryland/ the city of Baltimore. Also, if Congress allows Amtrak to keep their NEC operating profits on the NEC, this should eventually help, as well. (Also, the new funding structure is being worked through in Congress--see: http://www.federalbriefing.com):

 

FY'17 APPROPRIATIONS

On April 19, the Senate THUD (US DOT) Appropriations Subcommittee voted to approve its version of the FY'17 transportation funding bill. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the bill on Thursday.

Although the text of the bill has not yet been released, some details are known.

  • Highway ($44B) and Transit ($9.7B) Formula Funds - same as FAST Act authorized levels
  • FTA Capital Improvement Grants (New Starts/Small Starts/Core Capacity) - $2.3B - vs $2.177B in FY'16
  • TIGER Grants - $525M - vs $500M in FY'16
  • FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) - $3.35B - same as FY'16
  • Amtrak Northeast Corridor (NEC) Account - $345M; Amtrak National Network Account - $1.07B - the FAST Act authorized $474M and $1.02B respectively
  • FAST Act Rail Discretionary programs - $50M for consolidated rail infrastructure grants, $20M for state of good repair grants, $15M for restoration and enhancement grants - none received funding in FY'16

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3 new facts sheets are now up on the B & P Tunnel Project website.

 

I would assume they are being released as a prelude to the the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement that is supposed to be released sometime soon.

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Hi, I read information on the website that the new tunnels would allow train speeds to double over the train speed through the existing tunnels. This statement leads to my question of what is the current speed through the existing tunnels, which I didn't see on the website information?

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The speeds of the current tunnel are in there somewhere. Off the top of my I think the curve in the current tunnel restricts train speed to 30 mph (But I am not sure if that limit is for the whole length of the tunnel). If you look at some of the tables or slides where they compare the various alternates before they where eliminated you can see the speed of the current tunnel in Alternatives 1 & 2.

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Then, we'll study it some more.

 

Unless someone really wants to try and justify building something completely different than what is now being proposed or the current plan is allowed to languish with out funding for another decade or so (possible) I doubt you will see another study anytime soon.

 

I would like to think (but I won't hold my breathe) that once the Record of Decision is published in 2017, funding will appear to at least complete the design work for the project.

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The Final EIS has been released on the B&P Tunnel Project website. Community information meetings are scheduled on the 8th and 10th of December, additional information and details on the meetings can be found here. They haven't released any presentation slides for those meetings yet.

 

Probably of the most interest here are the following sections of the Final EIS:

(Beware the website was not working very fast or smooth when I downloaded and read these)

 

Chapter 2 Purpose and Need

Chapter 3 Alternatives Development

Chapter 4 Preferred Alternative

Appendix J Plan and Profile Drawings

 

Several hundred pages and probably more than enough drawings and figures to bore almost anyone reading it. Alternative 3B is the selected alternative and most of the document focuses on it. Current cost estimate (assuming completion in 2025) is $4.52B (found in Chapter 4).

 

The next step is the Record of Decision, then looking for funding to finish the final design (preliminary design should be complete now) and then start construction.

Edited by CraigDK

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The cost estimate includes cost escalation, etc.

 

When would construction likely begin? Also, could New Starts Grants and CMAQ funds likely contribute to the funding for the new four Baltimore Tunnels?

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The cost estimate includes cost escalation, etc.

 

When would construction likely begin? Also, could New Starts Grants and CMAQ funds likely contribute to the funding for the new four Baltimore Tunnels?

 

Yes they include cost escalation, that is typical practice (and they are a significant portion of the estimate).

 

Construction would start after funding is found and the final engineering work is done. If they are basing the estimate off of a 2025 completion date and the necessity to line up funding first (that can't officially start until the ROD is recorded early next year) and complete final engineering (that is not yet funded) I would guess late 2018 to 2019 at the earliest assuming everything perfectly lines up.

 

As to where the funding might come from, I really don't know. I haven't heard any discussion that gives a clear indication to those plans. Amtrak is the owner of the tunnel so they (and the federal government) will certainly cover a portion by various sources. Since MARC is a significant user of the tunnel (and I believe want to expand service, but are constrained by the tunnel) there is the potential that MARC and the State of Maryland may contribute as well. The use of the tunnels by commuter trains may make the project eligible to apply for funding that otherwise wouldn't be available...

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Actually MARC is as well constrained by the tracks BAL - WASH. There are sections of 2 MT, 3MT and some 4 MT. For MARC to increase service there is the need for MARC locals to operate on the outside tracks of a 4 track main. There is a long range plan for the NEC to be 4 mains PHL - WASH. Just get the funding. MARC would be better off getting Amtrak ( if possible ) to fund the B&P replacements and MARC As a user to add multi tracks Perryville - BAL - WASH.

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Hi, I read information on the website that the new tunnels would allow train speeds to double over the train speed through the existing tunnels. This statement leads to my question of what is the current speed through the existing tunnels, which I didn't see on the website information?

 

It is 30mph for the entire length of the B&P tunnel.

 

Actually MARC is as well constrained by the tracks BAL - WASH. There are sections of 2 MT, 3MT and some 4 MT. For MARC to increase service there is the need for MARC locals to operate on the outside tracks of a 4 track main. There is a long range plan for the NEC to be 4 mains PHL - WASH. Just get the funding. MARC would be better off getting Amtrak ( if possible ) to fund the B&P replacements and MARC As a user to add multi tracks Perryville - BAL - WASH.

 

The MARC locals generally operate on the outside tracks now. You don't need additional tracks for them. You need the additional tracks (and a reconfiguration of BWI but that is another story) for the express trains to have a good shot through the MARCs. Once the expresses are off the outside tracks, MARC will have additional slots.

 

The tunnels and Baltimore represent a much bigger bottleneck.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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