Biden vows to fix 150-year-old Baltimore train tunnel
President Joe Biden was in Baltimore on Monday to kick off a project that will replace a train tunnel built back when Ulysses S. Grant was president.
Biden was in his happy place, standing on the railroad track with an Amtrak train beside him. The president, who has the nickname ‘Amtrak Joe’ for the years he commuted via rail to Washington D.C. from Wilmington, was played on stage by the train’s whistle.
And he spoke about his personal ties to the tunnel, which he went through twice a day as he commuted between Delaware and D.C. when he was in the Senate.
‘I made 1,000 trips through this tunnel,’ Biden said of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, which connects the Northeast corridor – the busiest route on Amtrak.
He was joined at the event by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, who Biden campaigned for, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who is dealing with his own infrastructure-related crisis after airline troubles over the holiday season.
President Biden touted a new train tunnel to be built in Baltimore thanks to his infrastructure plan
Biden was joined at the event by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (right) and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (left), both rising stars in the Democratic Party
Both men, rising stars in the Democratic Party, are seen as future presidential contenders, possibly challenging Biden’s own Vice President Kamala Harris, should she run one day.
First built 150 years ago to connect Philadelphia and Washington D.C., the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, which runs under Baltimore residential neighborhoods, has become a choke point for trains in the area.
Trains slow to 30 mph to navigate a tight turn at its end, causing a slowdown on the busy route.
The tunnel will be replaced as part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. And it will be renamed in honor of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and ex-slave.
Biden said when it was complete, trains would travel more than 100 mph and the travel time between Baltimore and Washington D.C. would be cut down to 30 minutes (it’s currently about 45 minutes).
‘When the project is done, new trains will travel through this at a total of 110 miles an hour instead of 30 miles an hour. MARC trains [ the local commuter rail] will go from here to Washington in 30 minutes on an average,’ he said.
‘The structure is deteriorating, the roof was leaking, the floor is sinking. This is the United States of America for God’s sake. We know better than that,’ he said of the tunnel.
Biden has previously walked through the Civil-War era tunnel in Maryland to observe its deteriorating status. He said at an event last week that, when he did that, it was lit by lights on a string.
The new tunnel, when finished, will have two tubes, with up to four tracks total, and allow trains to travel more than 100 mph. The total project could cost $6 billion.
The White House said it will create approximately 20,000 construction jobs.
Biden is on an infrastructure kick this week. On Tuesday, he will travel to New York to talk about another new rail tunnel, this one under the Hudson River.
And, in his remarks, he repeated his debunked story that he has traveled a million miles on Amtrak.
President Joe Biden waves as he speaks about infrastructure at the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel North Portal in Baltimore
President Joe Biden was played on stage by the train’s whistle
Biden noted, when he was vice president, he traveled a million miles on Air Force Two. He said he was taking train back to Wilmington one day when ‘one of the conductors’ said to me, ‘Hey, Joe, big deal, million, whatever you want. You’ve traveled over a million miles on Amtrak.”
But an Associated Press fact check found that the conductor Biden has named, Angelo Negri, was already deceased by the time Biden logged one million miles on Air Force Two.