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"Residents Against the Tunnels" pushing back against Amtrak project

Posted at 7:24 PM, Sep 11, 2023

BALTIMORE — Amtrak just reached a milestone in speeding along its tunnel replacement project here in West Baltimore. But a group called "Residents Against the Tunnels" is pushing back against the project.

"The steam roller is moving on. And honestly when we started this back in 2015, we all looked at each other like, we're in this for the long haul and we'll probably get run over. It's like, yeah, but we can't be silent so, on we go," Laura Amlie said.

Laura Amlie's message to Amtrak? It's not too late to change course on this project.

The company announced today it has awarded two contracts for construction work on the Frederick Douglass tunnel program.

The project calls for replacing the civil war-era B&P tunnel, one of the oldest structures on the northeast corridor.

The tunnel connects Amtrak's Penn Station to MARC's West Baltimore station, and has long been a source of train delays.

"You're spending $6.4 billion, or more, on this massive thing to save 30 to 150 seconds. That's all the time savings. They keep talking about speed. Most of that speed comes from other things, other changes. The savings the tunnel offers is 30 to 150 seconds per trip," Amile said.

Aside from the hefty price tag, Amlie is chiefly concerned about safety and disruption to the neighborhood.

Reservoir Hill is one of the places where the tunnel will run underneath. It will also be the center of the construction work.

That means heavy machinery and loud truck runs.

"Huge, massive sludge pits right across the street from playgrounds. It's a decade of explosions, and dump trucks by the school. It's an entire child's education," Amlie said.

Although most of the talk surrounding this project is about passenger trains, Amlie fears freight trains will also pass through here.

"And this year that has become even more of a worry with over 13 derailments, explosions, etc. In freight this year," Amile said.

Amtrak responded to that concern with this: "The new tunnel tubes are being built for electrified passenger trains. Freight trains will continue to use the B&P Tunnel during normal operations, as they do today."

Amtrak says this will create jobs, reduce delays, and enhance the passenger experience.

The members of "Residents Against the Tunnels" feel like their voices are being ignored.

"Even from the very beginning, when they had the informational meetings telling people it was happening, we'd come with questions and challenges, and they never really got responded to beyond a nod," Amile said.