GBC’s Donald Fry urges Congress to upgrade aging Baltimore rail tunnels

Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry April 2 urged members of Congress to invest more federal transportation funding in the U.S. northeast rail corridor and to make upgrading Baltimore’s two aging rail tunnels a high priority.

Fry joined key members of Congress and more than 25 business leaders from the entire northeast corridor in a roundtable discussion and forum on transportation funding issues convened by the newly formed Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility.

“There are two critical bottlenecks on the northeast corridor, both are in Baltimore. Both are infrastructure tragedies, waiting to happen. I am referring to the Union Tunnel northeast of Penn Station, and the B&P Tunnel southwest of Penn Station,” Fry said in a prepared statement for the forum.

A fifth of Amtrak’s passenger trips, one quarter of its passenger miles, and one third of its ticket revenues depend upon Amtrak being able to operate through these tunnels, Fry said. “They are like arteries leading into the heart of the city, pumping passengers in and pumping passengers out. Yet they are old and failing.”

The tunnels were built almost 140 years ago. In his statement, Fry urged congressional leaders to include sufficient funds in the Amtrak authorization to upgrade the tunnels. “What is needed is immediate action to fix the old and dangerous tunnels in the heart of Maryland’s major city,” he said.

Fry supported a recent recommendation by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to reduce the number of program areas within the federal transportation authorization from 108 to about 10. Fry also championed the concept of reducing the time currently necessary to get a transit project under construction from 10 or 12 years to a more manageable four to five years.

Today’s forum was held in anticipated introduction of legislation by the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in April to authorize funding for Amtrak. The Senate already passed legislation in October (S.294) that would authorize an increase in capital funding for Amtrak over the next six years. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies’ hearing on Amtrak’s budgetary needs and its FY09 budget request is scheduled to take place tomorrow. The Business Alliance strongly supports Amtrak’s budgetary needs and its FY09 budget request. 

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