A U.S. DOT webinar marking the occasion highlights innovative and overdue improvements around the country.
By Angie Schmitt
Photo Credit: Amtrak
Two years to the day since President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, leaders from around the country shared how they are putting the funds to work, tackling some of the biggest transportation challenges in the U.S.
In a webinar hosted by U.S. DOT’s Project Delivery Center of Excellence, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore shared how a new $4.7 billion grant will help rebuild the B&P rail tunnel, which is currently the largest choke point on Amtrak’s heavily traveled Northeast Corridor.
Tom Nissalke, assistant general manager of planning and development at the Atlanta airport, explained how a $40 million BUILD grant is helping the world’s busiest airport scale up to meet demand.
And from Philadelphia, transportation policy and planning lead Christopher Puchalsky gave an overview of how the city’s most dangerous street – the notorious Roosevelt Boulevard – was being overhauled to save lives thanks to a $78 BUILD grant.
“It was locally referred to as the ‘boulevard of death,’” Puchalsky told listeners. “It has an enormous number of fatalities every year. We’ve known we needed to do something for a long time.”
Thanks to the federal support, the city is currently conducting a long-dreamed-of major overhaul of the 12-lane arterial, which claimed 75 lives between 2016 and 2023. Pedestrian crossings will be enhanced, and dedicated bus lanes are being added, among other improvements.
Meanwhile in Maryland, the B&P Tunnel is almost 150 years old and dates back to the Civil War era, according to Amtrak. The 1.4 mile tunnel, is a critical link between Washington and Baltimore’s Penn Station, serving 9 million riders a year. The $6 billion project will rebuild and rename the link the Frederick Douglass Tunnel.
“Two years in, the law is actually rebuilding the backbone of our country,” said Gov. Moore. “It’s a remarkable achievement and we know we are just getting started.”
In Atlanta, a persistent bottleneck is in line for a fix – and with disruptions for passengers minimized. Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is planning to use an innovative approach to widen its cramped, undersized Concourse D. The project will increase passenger capacity there about 18 percent and provide better facilities for customers.
To minimize disruptions, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport is going to complete the project over six phases, using modular construction elements, which is a relatively recent innovation in airport construction – and has never been applied at such a large scale. In addition, four new gates will be added to offset the construction closures in Concourse D, Nissalke said.
All the speakers emphasized the economic benefits of the projects as well. On the subject of workforce, Puchalsky added that it’s important to build capacity in the public sector.
In Baltimore, Moore said, new training centers are opening to help ensure that groups have historically been excluded from the construction trades can benefit economically from the investments.
“That tunnel replacement is expected to generate 30,000 jobs and that includes 20,000 director construction jobs that do not require a college degree,” said Moore. “Being able to create these pathways into good paying union jobs that can sustain a family not just for job but for a career.”