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Baltimore residents worried major tunnel construction project could damage their historic homes

Baltimore residents concerned by construction of major rail project
Baltimore residents concerned by construction of major rail project 03:08

BALTIMORE - A major rail project aimed at accelerating commuters from New Jersey to Washington D.C. is underway, but residents in West Baltimore are concerned construction will damage the foundation of their historic homes.

Once complete, Amtrak's Frederick Douglass Tunnel, a multi-billion dollar project, will connect commuters across the state faster than ever.

The project is expected to be completed by 2035.  

Residents in Baltimore's Matthew Henson community are concerned about the impacts of the construction of the tunnel, which will run partially underground.

Amtrak says this rail project will help to unlock rail bottlenecks from New Jersey down to Washington D.C.

As a daily commuter in Baltimore, Doc Cheatham knows how important a new passenger rail tunnel can be for the region.

"It's imperative, especially in neighborhoods like this," he said.

But as a Baltimorean, Cheatham knows how damaging construction can be to historic homes.

"Will we be hearing it? And what effect will it have on the structure of the housing? These houses are over 100 years old," Cheatham said.


Matthew Henson community members met on Tuesday with Amtrak representatives for an informational meeting about the Fredrick Douglass Tunnel, a state-of-the-art passenger trail that will replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel.

The new tunnel will consist of two tubes allowing trains to run up to 110 mph underneath a two-mile stretch in West Baltimore.

Residents tell WJZ they want Amtrak to slow down their plans. 

"We're hearing about fear, confusion, chaos in the community," said Amy Petkovsek, executive director of the Community Law Center, who represents six neighborhood associations impacted by ongoing construction.

The current 1.4-mile train that's capped at 30 mph connects Penn Station to MARC's West Baltimore station. 

Amtrak says the tunnel is deteriorating, lacking updated security systems and the floors are sinking in.

Petrovsek says many residents are concerned the foundation of their homes will be impacted by a tunnel running underneath.

"These are old 100-year homes that are built on sand, made of brick with old sewer lines," Petrovsek said.

A map shows the new tunnel's path that will run under Reservoir Hill and Penn North before emerging near a new West Baltimore MARC station.

Cheatham says that although the project will allow parts of Baltimore new access to transportation, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the stability of its pathway through his neighborhood.

"We want to know what streets does it affect, what impact will it have, will neighbors have an opportunity to seek employment," Cheatham said.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott have praised the project and have said it will bring new opportunity to the state. 

The majority of the funding for this project is supported by a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, spearheaded by the Biden Administration.

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