Posts Tagged ‘MARC’

Baltimore Tunnel Replacement Advances

July 8, 2021

Plans have been announced for replacing the Baltimore rail tunnel in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak said the program is part of a long-range plan to work toward replacement of the B&P Tunnel with a new tunnel to be named after Frederick Douglass, who was a a 19th century abolitionist leader born in Maryland.

The B&P Tunnel is 150 years old and is plagued by deterioration, water infiltration and a sinking floor. The tunnel is 1.4 miles long.

These problems have caused chronic delays for Amtrak and MARC commuter trains.

Officials with Amtrak and the Maryland Department of Transportation  said replacing the B&P Tunnel will be multiple step, long-range project.

In the first phase workers will construct two new high-capacity tunnel tubes for electrified passenger trains.

Additional tunnel tubes are being deferred but will be designed to accommodate freight trains.

MDOT said MARC commuter trains using the new tunnels will be electrified.

Tunnel construction is expected to cost $4 billion and still needs full funding. In the meantime Amtrak is performing design work and has started to acquire property in preparation for construction.

Construction could begin on the tunnel’s southern approach within the next two years.

Amtrak Suspending Some Washington Service

January 18, 2021

In advance of the inauguration of president-elect Joseph Biden, Amtrak is suspending some services to Washington.

In a service advisory, the passenger carrier said it will not operate Northeast Regional service south of Washington on Jan 19 and 20.

The New York-Charlotte Carolinian will only operate in North Carolina between Raleigh and Charlotte on those dates.

Long distance trains operating to or through Washington will be unaffected, including the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak said passengers whose trips begin or end in Washington should be aware that there will be pedestrian and vehicle restrictions at and around Washington Union Station.

This includes the closure of DC Metro’s Union Station stop. Passengers are being directed to use Metro’s NOMA/Gallaudet station, which Amtrak described as being a short walk from Union Station. Metro will operate on a modified schedule.

MARC commuter trains to Maryland and West Virginia have been suspended and Virginia Railway Express said its trains will not run Monday through Wednesday.

The service advisory said there will be no access to taxi or ride share services at WUS.

Unions Seek Protection for Trains in Washington

January 13, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Homeland Security to protect passengers and railroad workers of Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express services in and around Washington.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said they are seeking additional security measures in the wake of rioting that occurred in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6.

The unions have asked federal authorities for a minimal standard that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.

The letter to the FRA and Homeland Security sent by the unions cited  “the very real risk and potential for additional violence and riots.” It noted that Washington remains on high alert.

Amtrak Rehabbing NEC Tunnel in Baltimore

February 3, 2020

Amtrak said it is launching a pilot to rebuild the 147-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in the Northeast Corridor.

In a news release, Amtrak said the preventive maintenance work is expected the tunnel in good working condition until a new tunnel can be built under the City of Baltimore.

Workers will replace 1,000 feet of track slab and block ties and renew track inside the tunnel that have deteriorated due to age and water infiltration.

The work is being done over eight weekends in order to minimize disruptions of passenger operations.

Amtrak said the pilot project will allow Amtrak’s engineering department to evaluate viable options to improve the reliability of the B&P Tunnel.

The two-track tunnel, which opened in 1873, is located between the West Baltimore MARC and Baltimore Penn stations and is used by Amtrak, Maryland’s MARC Commuter trains and Norfolk Southern freight trains.

The tunnel is said by Amtrak to be approaching the end of its useful life and its obsolete design creates a low-speed bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor.

In 2017the Federal Railroad Administration issued a Record of Decision for a new four-track tunnel system to replace the existing B&P Tunnel. The new tunnel would cost an estimated $5 billion.

Virginia Announces $3.7B Rail Passenger Expansion Pact

December 21, 2019

An agreement involving Amtrak, CSX and the Commonwealth of Virginia would result in hourly rail service within 10 years between Washington and Richmond.

The $3.7 billion pact will also pave the way for expansion of intercity rail passenger service to other parts of the state.

CSX will get increased capacity on its lines that are used by Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains.

State officials said the agreement will give Virginia control over 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 of existing track in three rail corridors.

This includes the former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac line now owned by CSX between Richmond and Washington.

As part of the agreement, the double-track mainline through Ashland, Virginia, will remain unchanged.

Central to the agreement is the Long Bridge, a two-track structure over the Potomac River at Washington that is used by CSX, VRE and Amtrak and is at near capacity during peak times.

Virginia will be allowed to build and own a new bridge parallel to the existing structure that will be used only for passenger trains.

That bridge, which is now undergoing an environmental review, will also contain a span for bicycles and pedestrians.

The existing Long Bridge, which is 115 years old, will be reserved for use by CSX.

Virginia will build and own separate tracks for passenger service between Alexandria and L’Enfant Station in Washington.

The state also plans to build a flyover near Springfield and Franconia to allow passenger trains to cross from the east side of the rail line to the west to cross the new bridge.

The bridge project is expected to be completed by 2030 although it could open as early as 2028.

The first phase of the expansion project will involve building four miles of track in Fairfax County from Franconia south to Lorton by 2024.

The second phase will add by 2026, adds 19 miles of track, including the flyover in Fairfax and a third track in Hanover County north of Ashland that would serve as a siding for coordinating rail traffic.

An additional six daily Amtrak Northeast Regional trains will be added between Richmond and Washington with the first additional train launching in 2020.

Additional trains are planned to Norfolk in 2010 and to Newport News by 2026.

Amtrak now has five Northeast Regional trains that serve Richmond via the Staples Mill Road Station in Henrico County.

But just two of them stop at Richmond’s Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom.

Four more Amtrak long-distance trains stop at Staples Mill and Virginia wants to see those trains able to serve Main Street Station.

In announcing the rail expansion plan, Virginia transportation officials said its purpose is to relieve traffic gridlock on Interstate 95.

They said that the cost of expanding rail service is one-third of the cost of adding a new I-95 lane.

VRE service to Northern Virginia, including additional trains through Manassas, are expected to relieve rush-hour traffic on I-95 and I-66.

CSX will receive $525 million from the state for the right-of-way and existing track on three rail lines.

That includes half of the 112 miles of right-of-way and 39 miles of track that CSX owns between Richmond and Washington, passenger train rights to 30 miles of track between Richmond and Petersburg, 75 miles of right-of-way on CSX’s abandoned S-Line between Petersburg and Ridgeway, North Carolina, and 173 miles of right-of-way and 186 miles of track on the Buckingham Branch Line between Doswell and Clifton Forge.

Amtrak is expected to contribute $944 million to the project, which also would be financed by the state and regional partners, including the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, co-owners of VRE.

State funding will come from Virginia’s partnership with the federal government on the Atlantic Gateway project in the I-95 corridor, and regional toll revenues from the I-66 expansion inside the Capital Beltway. The project would require authorization of bonds, but not for tax-supported debt.

VRE capacity would increase by 75 percent, leading to 15-minute headways during peak service hours. Additional service will be added on weekends.

The additional VRE service will include five daily VRE trains between Spotsylvania County and Washington and four additional VRE trains on the Manassas Line between Washington and Broad Run in Prince William County.

Virginia officials will need to reach an agreement with Norfolk Southern, which owns a portion of the Manassas Line.

The agreement also has the potential to enable Maryland-funded commuter rail service MARC to expand service from Baltimore into Northern Virginia once the new Potomac River bridge is completed.

MARC service now operates no farther south than Washington Union Station.

Funding Plan Proposed to Save W.Va. MARC Service

October 20, 2019

A funding plan may have been reached to preserve the existing level of MARC service to West Virginia.

Communities in the state served by MARC have tentatively agreed to pay an additional $300,000 to preserve the service.

The pledges were made after a representative of the Gov Jim Justice said the state is willing to increase its funding to continue the six-trains-per-day operations, if the communities involved make a serious financial commitment to the service.

MARC had earlier said it would cut service to West Virginia from Washington to just one roundtrip per day without additional funding.

Berkeley and Jefferson counties along with the cities of Martinsburg, Charles Town, Ranson, Harpers Ferry, Bolivar and Shepherdstown have proposed a funding formula based on population.

Contributions would range from $170,000 for Berkeley County to $410 for Harpers Ferry, whose town council has already pledged $2,500 to maintain MARC service.

MARC Service to W.Va. Saved

March 19, 2018

Commuter trains operated by Maryland Rail Commuter will continue to serve West Virginia after that state’s governor signed the fiscal year 2019 budget.

The $4.38 billion budget contains authority to allow the transfer of $1.5 million from the securities division in the state Auditor’s Office to the West Virginia Commuter Rail Access Fund.

MARC had threatened to end the service between Washington and Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg, West Virginia, as early as summer if a new funding arrangement was not worked out. The new funding agreement will last for a year.

MARC trains to West Virginia use the same CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio) route used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.