The Federal Railroad Administration wants to go ahead with a $4 billion project to replace a 143-year-old Amtrak tunnel that passes under West Baltimore and is a major bottleneck in the rail corridor from Boston to Washington.
The agency's preferred route for a new Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel would take it in a wide arc beneath neighborhoods including Reservoir Hill, Penn North and Sandtown-Winchester, displacing 22 homes, five of which are vacant, according to a recently released final environmental impact statement.
The new tunnel would replace the existing 1.4-mile tunnel beneath Bolton Hill and Sandtown-Winchester, allowing more trains to pass through and at faster speeds.
The administration is accepting public comments on its plan through late December, before deciding next spring whether to approve it.
At public hearings held this past spring, residents said they feared that noise and vibration from the trains would disrupt their communities.
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A group called Residents Against the Tunnels plans to ask for an extra month to review the plan, said its president, Reservoir Hill resident Kathy Epple.
Epple said she also is concerned about hazardous freight that could pass dozens of feet below homes, and fears that residents don't know enough about the agency's plans.
"We're very worried about the possibility of freight," Epple said. "I think a lot of people aren't really aware of this project yet, or they just think it's going to be harmless passenger trains."
Federal and state officials are hosting two informational sessions about the tunnel plans next week: from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at Mount Royal Elementary/Middle School and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 10 at Carver Vocational-Technical High School.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.