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New Bill Would Invest In Baltimore's Railroad System

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Getting back on track. State, local and federal officials issue a warning: America's railroad lines are in desperate need of funding for upgrades and repairs.

Marcus Washington has more on what improvements are being requested here in Baltimore.

Baltimore is considered one of the major stops along the Northeast Corridor for Amtrak. Millions of people travel through here a year. It's not the access that's an issue, it's the age and conditions of the infrastructures.

Each year, two million pairs of eyes enter and leave Baltimore's Penn Station with a 141-year-old tunnel as part of the scenery.

For years, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has pushed for improvements. But it's going to take more than paint and flowers for this project.

"Baltimore deserves better when it comes to this iconic structure and this iconic gateway into Baltimore," the mayor said.

Not only is there a push to visually make improvements, but also make a way for an up-to-date and faster way for riders to travel the Northeast Corridor by train.

Many people say the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel is not it. Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski even referenced the 2001 tunnel fire when a train carrying dangerous chemicals derailed.

"It is a major choke point in our Northeast Corridor. It is dated, and at times, it's even dangerous," Sen. Mikulski said.

Right now, Congress is being called on to pass the GROW AMERICA Act. It's a four year, $300 billion transportation bill that would invest $19 billion in America's railroad system.

"This tunnel can become a reality as well as all of the other infrastructure upgrades that need to take place up and down the basically 500 miles of the corridor," said Joseph Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration.

Amtrak ridership is growing rapidly, with more than 135 trains traveling through Baltimore a day.

"But it is time to move past these tunnels and into a new generation of 21st century infrastructure," said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak.

The improvements being pushed across the Northeast Corridor would affect 17 different tunnels and 100 bridges.

It's said that riders on the Northeast Corridor of Amtrak contribute more than $100 million to the American economy every day.

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