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Public meetings scheduled on B&P Tunnel replacement

A series of public meetings on several options for the replacement or reconstruction of the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore have been planned for next month.

Residents in neighborhoods that would be impacted by the proposed options — including those in the struggling Midtown Edmondson neighborhood, which could see a new tunnel entrance built at its center — are invited to attend, ask questions and voice their concerns.

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The existing 1.4-mile B&P Tunnel, built through West Baltimore in 1873, runs between the West Baltimore MARC station and Penn Station. It is one of the oldest structures and considered a major choke point on Amtrak's busy Northeast Corridor, as its "existing track geometry and outdated tunnel design significantly impedes rail movement," according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

An estimated 85 Amtrak trains, 57 MARC commuter trains and two freight trains pass through the tunnel each day.

Replacement alternatives — including two alternate tunneled routes, an option to reconstruct the current tunnel and an option to do nothing — were shortlisted in November as part of a $60 million federally-funded study aimed at improving service, reliability and safety along the corridor.

The study, which will provide final evaluations of all four alternatives, is expected to be completed in 2017.

One of the alternate routes, known as the "Great Circle" option, would take the rail line north from the West Baltimore MARC station, underground in an industrial area and then into a 2-mile-deep tunnel that would arc east beneath Easterwood, Fulton, Penn North and Reservoir Hill before emerging in a rail yard west of Penn Station.

The second alternate route, known as the "Robert Street" option, would take the rail line east from the MARC station into a tunnel in the middle of Midtown Edmondson, then below parts of Sandtown-Winchester, Harlem Park, Druid Heights, Mount Royal and Bolton Hill for 1.8 miles before emerging in the same yard near Penn Station.

Past comments from local residents about the options have included concerns about vibrations in historic neighborhoods above the proposed routes, and complaints about a lack of information about the project's proposals to date.

The series of meetings, hosted by MDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and the city's transportation department, are all scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as follows:

•April 13 at Gilmor Elementary, 1311 North Gilmor Street

•April 14 at Mt. Royal Elementary, 121 McMechen Street

•April 20 at Westside Elementary, 2235 North Fulton Avenue

•April 21 at Lockerman Bundy Elementary, 301 North Pulaski Street

The meetings will all cover the same information. Those who cannot attend a meeting can submit input at bptunnel.com or vial email to info@bptunnel.com. Those who need special accommodations to attend one of the meetings can call the city transportation department at 410-396-6856.

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