11 May 2011
The US state of Maryland will receive US$22 million in federal funding to begin the process of replacing a key rail bridge over the Susquehanna River. The bridge's likely replacement cost is about US$800 million.
The funding for the project became available when a new administration came into office in Florida and killed a high speed rail project, turning down more than US$2 billion in federal money.
The Obama administration has reallocated the funding to rail projects across the country. Maryland and operator Amtrak will use a share of that money to begin the replacement of the 105-year-old Penn Line bridge over the Susquehanna River.
The US$22 million for Maryland will go toward preliminary engineering and environmental studies for a new bridge across the Susquehanna River between Perryville and Havre de Grace. The existing bridge, owned by Amtrak, was opened in 1906 and carries over 100 Amtrak, Maryland Area Regional Commuter and freight trains each weekday. Amtrak and MARC both forecast that the number of trains using the bridge will more than double in the next two decades.
The existing bridge creates both capacity and speed issues. Much of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is either three or four tracks while the existing Susquehanna Bridge has only two tracks and a speed limit of 145km/hour. The new bridge will be designed to accommodate up to four tracks with an operating speed up to 322km/hour.
This US$22 million grant for preliminary engineering and environmental studies will result in the creation of 104 direct jobs in Maryland over the next three years. The actual cost to construct a replacement bridge has not been established but it is likely to cost over US$800 million, based on preliminary estimates. Funding for construction must still be acquired in the future.
“We welcome the federal dollars to begin the Susquehanna bridge project and we understand that there is more work to be done,” said transportation secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley. “Obtaining the large amounts of funding needed for major projects is a process. We will continue to be aggressive in our pursuit of additional federal dollars for rail priorities that we believe will improve service here in Maryland and along the northeast corridor.”