Replacement for B&P tunnel in Baltimore

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Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
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Location
Baltimore. MD
https://news.yahoo.com/biden-visit-...UBseK07M66x6JPpHnfiwEVEDAj_WAhU5fw1D1IY1v1vKV

Looks like the President is visiting my hometown today to kick off the Frederick Douglass tunnel project, a project that's long overdue. Hopefully, they'll get it done before the existing C&P tunnel collapses or floods. And apparently the President will be traveling to New York tomorrow to talk with the locals about the Hudson River tunnels, another critical project.
 
Some more background about the Presidential visit and the B&P tunnel.

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/...imore-highlights-rail-tunnel-project/3266483/
Interesting. It appears that Senator Biden, during his commuting years, got to have some cab rides.
And like most Politicians, he often " worked" the Train shaking hands, smoozing and reminding people to Vote!

I got to ride in his car several times while he was in the Senate, both on Metroliners and Acelas!
 
After posting lat comment open railway map shows something different so will withdraw comment about curve until can see more detail.

One comment about MARC out of Baltimore station. At BAL station track 3 is next to station track "A"?. Inside the new tunnel it passes either over or under track 1 & 2 to become the farther west track at west Baltimore station. That way there will be no delay to a MARC train or Amtrak even if they leave at exactly same time going toward WASH.

Amtrak can fly by West Baltimore on usually track #2 as the MARC train slows when that station is a scheduled stop or if not a scheduled MARC stop parallel Amtrak train at 100 MPH unless Amtrak is a HSR train. That should be worth a 2- or 3-minute schedule reduction,
 
After posting lat comment open railway map shows something different so will withdraw comment about curve until can see more detail.

One comment about MARC out of Baltimore station. At BAL station track 3 is next to station track "A"?. Inside the new tunnel it passes either over or under track 1 & 2 to become the farther west track at west Baltimore station. That way there will be no delay to a MARC train or Amtrak even if they leave at exactly same time going toward WASH.

Amtrak can fly by West Baltimore on usually track #2 as the MARC train slows when that station is a scheduled stop or if not a scheduled MARC stop parallel Amtrak train at 100 MPH unless Amtrak is a HSR train. That should be worth a 2- or 3-minute schedule reduction,
When the plan was more ambitious, there were four tubes instead of two, to handle that crossover situation with the MARC. One tube crossed under two of the others inside the hill.

On the other hand, I do like the plan for the commuter station across the tracks from the Amtrak station, and that one seems on the way to being built. Work is underway on the concourse bridge, if that's what you call it, as well as a platform on the commuter side.
 
The rough description of the new two tunnel plan is at:

https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/...lic/documents/bptunnel/fd-tunnel-faq-2023.pdf
It does not go into the details of which track becomes what.

It seems to me the at CP Winans they really need to make the center two tracks the high speed ones and the side two tracks commuter ones. Then at the tunnel mouth (CP New Bridge?) they two side tracks can merge into the two adjacent to them center tracks, and the two center tracks then continue through the tunnel to the station. This gets the stopping MARC train out of the way of the Amtrak Expresses, both Regional and Acela.
 
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We have to worry that if the other 2 tubes are put off that BALTIMORE will become a large constraint for traffic. If in the future an Acela stopping at BAL or even an express a few minutes late waiting for MARC to clear at new West Baltimore may make a 2 - 3 minute delay.

MARC seems to need many more trains BAL <> WAS in the future. It has been recognized that 4 tracks from PHL -m WAS are going to be needed. Even the bridges in Maryland are being rebuilt for 4 main tracks.
 
We have to worry that if the other 2 tubes are put off that BALTIMORE will become a large constraint for traffic. If in the future an Acela stopping at BAL or even an express a few minutes late waiting for MARC to clear at new West Baltimore may make a 2 - 3 minute delay.

MARC seems to need many more trains BAL <> WAS in the future. It has been recognized that 4 tracks from PHL -m WAS are going to be needed. Even the bridges in Maryland are being rebuilt for 4 main tracks.
If the simple changes I describe above are made then a westbound MARC train stopping at West Baltimore and Halethorpe would not interfere with an Express/Acela. MARC will be able to hold at Halethorpe to let an Express that is running a bit late by.

Of course four tracks all the way is better than a small two track segment in the middle. But it is better to have two tracks in a higher speed tunnel than having no tracks in higher speed tunnel waiting for funding for all four. Remember, with proper signaling upgrades two tracks can handle up 25 trains per hour in each direction anyway which is way more than the demand now and in the nest decade or two as far as I can tell..

Also remember, that at least for now west of Winans it is three tracks and est of Baltimore the Union Tunnels are also 3 tracks. It will be a while before those become four tracks too.
 
When the plan was more ambitious, there were four tubes instead of two, to handle that crossover situation with the MARC. One tube crossed under two of the others inside the hill.

On the other hand, I do like the plan for the commuter station across the tracks from the Amtrak station, and that one seems on the way to being built. Work is underway on the concourse bridge, if that's what you call it, as well as a platform on the commuter side.
The original proposal was more ambitious. Watching this evolve from a reasonably forward-looking proposal for four tracks with sufficient clearance for double-stack freight trains to a two-track, passenger-only tunnel that will still be a bottleneck (albeit not as severe a bottlenwck) to keep costs under control was super disheartening. Anyone know if the new tunnels will even be able to accommodate superliners?

It's pathetic that this is all we can get for six billion dollars, frankly. Switzerland - not exactly a place known for cheap labor and unsafe working conditions - built the Gotthard Base Tunnel for not too much more than that.
 
Seems to be inefficient to retain the old tunnels for 2 (round trip) freight trains per week. Is NS going to eat the total cost of maintaining them forever ?
It also provides some redundancy plus it would allow MARC to run some diesel trains as it transitions to all electric operation, as diesels will not be allowed in the new tunnels
 
It's pathetic that this is all we can get for six billion dollars, frankly. Switzerland - not exactly a place known for cheap labor and unsafe working conditions - built the Gotthard Base Tunnel for not too much more than that.
I suspect that the higher cost in infrastructure projects in the US as compared to other peer countries is not due to the cost of labor or workplace regulations. It probably has more to do with our management culture and political culture. Arguments over the benefits of "internal improvements" was one of the earliest political controversies in the history of the United States. I think this has resulted in the current situation of NIBYism, "everything bagel liberalism, and plain old traditional corruption adding to the price tag of almost every public works project persued in this country.
 
Watching this evolve from a reasonably forward-looking proposal for four tracks with sufficient clearance for double-stack freight trains

I think there as a certain amount of community opposition to having double stack container trains running on Amtrak tracks. Given how double stack trains mess up passenger service out west, I, too, would be reluctant to have them clutter up the tracks of the Northeast Corridor, especially given the plans for more frequent passenger service. In fact, I'm not sure how NS freight service works in the Baltimore area, as they have a reasonably large yard northeast of the city, but the nearest tracks that NS controls are either north of Perryville or south of Washington. Maybe it's mostly coal trains coming down from the Port Road and then to the harbor, where the coal gets loaded on ships for export.

Also, there's a certain amount of ignorance among the public. I attended a public meeting a few years ago where some local activists went ballistic about the prospect of tanker trains full of Bakken oil going through the new tunnels. I think they called them "bomb trains" or something like that. This was some time when the Lac Megantic disaster was still fresh. I think the real issue was the possibility of tanker trains going through the Howard Street Tunnel, which may actually be worse, but that's actually the main rail freight route for the east coast, so there's really no alternative. Clearly, what they need to do is built a completely new freight rail bypass around Baltimore, probably running through the industrial area around the port, but doing that would not only require building a new harbor crossing, either a high-level bridge or tunnel. Somehow, I don't think CSX or NS would find it profitable to use their capital to finance this, and public financing would be another "internal improvement" controversy about taxpayer money from the many providing a benefit for the few (CSX or NS).
 
I suspect that the higher cost in infrastructure projects in the US as compared to other peer countries is not due to the cost of labor or workplace regulations.
There's also a lot of "where are you building" involved. Gotthard Base is a clean bore through basement rock thousands of meters below the mountaintops. Counterintuitively, that's easier than a shallow bore in the geological mess that is Eastern North America east of the Fall Line under a populated area that's a few dozen feet over your head. Gotthard is very, very long, but there's not a whole lot of variables involved or extra things to account for or mitigate. They moved miles and miles and miles of blueschist rather than "here's some limestone. Wait this is sand now. Ok more limestone. And here's some clay. And this is...the foundation of an 18th century building? How'd this even get here?"
 

Amtrak Awards Contract to Build New Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore


Amtrak Awards Contract to Build New Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore
Completion in 2035 seems a long way away. I looked up a tunnel project nearer me in Virginia, under Hampton Roads, the body of water where the James and Elizabeth Rivers approach the Chesapeake Bay. It's underway and will be about five years from the first shovel to the finish. But it's for a highway, I-64. And through mud, not a hill in Baltimore. One of the details about speed is the tunnel boring machine will complete one tube, and then it will take four months to turn it around in a pit and bore the other tube. And that's faster than, instead of having such a nice big round pit, taking it apart and rebuilding it in a smaller pit.

The Douglass Tunnel is more critical, as I-64 has alternate routes. The first crossing anywhere close to that far down the James was a bridge in the 1930s and there are wonderful stories about people skipping the toll. On a much smaller scale, they're reminiscent of Herb Caen's famous story about people in the San Francisco Bay Area reading one of his columns at their breakfast tables one morning and all having the same idea, to pay the toll on the Bay Bridge with three dimes. A nickle was the one piece of change or folding money the toll takers did not keep between their fingers, as he had described it in his picturesque column. The bridge backed up for miles. A truck had to come the wrong direction to deliver nickles. (I might have the denominations wrong.) Or so he told it. On the James River, the bridge went bankrupt and the state took over in the 1940s. People just took the ferries rather than pay the toll, and the ferries were more direct.
 
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There's also a lot of "where are you building" involved. Gotthard Base is a clean bore through basement rock thousands of meters below the mountaintops.
This is not entirely accurate.

The Gotthard Base tunnel was not through clean solid rock all the way. In the southern part it crosses the Piora Basin, which is actually a sort of deep valley or ravine of natural origin that was filled with rock debris through the actions of glaciers during the last ice age. The spaces between the rocks is filled with a mix of sand, gravel and water. Although the tunnel only cuts through the basin for about 150 to 200 yards, it was the number one uncertainty factor for the entire project, and huge sums were spent studying it, both before and during construction. With the basin being several 1000 feet (?) deep at the tunnel level, you can imagine that the water pressure down there is considerable. Even a minor and local collapse could have cascaded a funnel effect through the layers above it and caused untold damage. The tunnel builders had to work with extreme care and slowness. They injected fixing substances to stabilize the rock ahead of tunneling, and monitored the tiniest of rock movements.

There were also several other locations where water ingress was a major problem.

Also, the Gotthard base tunnel was not just built by tunneling from both ends. To speed things up a shaft was also dug in a place called Sedrun. The shaft itself was quite a feat, going down more than half a mile in a sheer drop. Once the base level was reached, tunneling machines started in both directions. The shaft access is located high in the mountains in an inaccessible and inhospitable location. A temporary railroad branch had to be built to bring in equipment and move out spoils etc. This railroad line itself required quite a bit of rock blasting and a river crossing. This shaft is today an emergency evacuation route. The railroad has been dismantled and returned to nature. There was also a second intermediate access point at Faido, albeit not as complicated.

Furthermore, neither of the tunnel portals is directly on the old Gotthard route and the project included the construction of surface approaches at both ends,
 
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