President Joe Biden flew to Baltimore, Maryland, on Monday to kick begin a $6 billion train tunnel renovation project financed mostly by his bipartisan infrastructure plan, an enhancement he claimed will benefit Amtrak travelers like himself.
The new tunnel will replace the outdated Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, removing what the White House describes as the most significant bottleneck between New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
“As I already stated, this tunnel is approximately 150 years old. It’s the Civil War era, and Ulysses S. Grant is the president. The building is falling apart, the roof is leaking, and the floor is sinking. For God’s sake, this is the United States of America. We’re smarter than that “Biden stated this while standing next to an Amtrak Acela train.
Recounting how, as a senator, he’d make daily travels between Washington and Delaware “”I’ve gone through this tunnel a thousand times,” he continued, “and you don’t need me to tell you how badly the Baltimore tunnel needs an overhaul. I’ve been there, and you have, too.”
Once finished, tunnel capacity is planned to treble, with trains operating at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour instead of the present 30 miles per hour.
The new tunnel will be named after Frederick Douglass, who “boarded this train to freedom right here in Baltimore,” according to Biden.
“He fled slavery by train, fighting for abolition and civil rights,” Biden added. “It’s only appropriate that we memorialize him in this way.”
Biden’s visit to Baltimore on Monday was the first in a series of tours publicizing the infrastructure bill this week. He will visit New York City on Tuesday to discuss the Hudson Tunnel Project, and Philadelphia on Friday to discuss the removal of lead pipes.
According to the White House, the new Baltimore tunnel will include two tubes along a softer curve alignment; ventilation and emergency egress facilities; new signaling systems, overhead catenary, and track; five new roadway and railroad bridges in the area surrounding the tunnel; and a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC station.
“The Frederick Douglass Tunnel will be entirely electric,” declared Biden. “This has the potential to change the game for the environment.”
In addition, the president announced the signing of other project agreements.
“Today we’re introducing this project, and we’re going to expand on our project labor agreement,” stated Biden. “These are agreements that contractors and unions enter into before work begins.”
The Baltimore-Potomac Tunnel Replacement Program is estimated to create 30,000 employment, with about 20,000 of these being direct construction jobs. According to the White House, an extra $50 million investment from Amtrak will go into local workforce development and community investments, including pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, to guarantee that local workers in West Baltimore can access these jobs.