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Amtrak, federal and Maryland officials rescheduled to March 23 a final public hearing on the environmental assessment and preliminary engineering study for the replacement of the Susquehanna River rail bridge.Rescheduled from today due to severe weather in the Northeast, the hearing will be hosted by Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and Maryland Department of Transportation.The proposed project would replace the 111-year-old bridge, a two-track structure located between Havre de Grace in Harford County and Perryville in Cecil County, Md. Amtrak owns the bridge, which is also used by Maryland's MARC commuter railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway.The hearing will be held 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Perryville High School, Perryville.Meanwhile, Amtrak released an economic analysis of its Gateway program that showed implementation of it would generate $4 worth of economic benefit for every $1 spent.The program calls for building a new tunnel under the Hudson River, expanding Penn Station and making major investments to create a modern four-track rail system from Newark, N.J., to Penn Station in New York City.Investment in the program "is needed to address critical capacity constraints on the Northeast Corridor between Newark, N.J., and Manhattan, where the corridor narrows from four tracks to two tracks," the report states. "The two existing Hudson River rail tubes into midtown Manhattan — the only intercity passenger rail crossings into New York City from New Jersey — currently operate at 95 percent capacity during rush hour, creating a severe bottleneck that limits NEC train volume across the entire rail corridor."Moreover, the volume of trains that use the 21 tracks at Penn Station is projected to increase significantly by 2030. The station is already severely congested, growing from 661 average weekday train movements in 1976 to 1,302 average weekday train movements now, the report states.Additionally, much of the existing rail infrastructure in that portion of the Northeast Corridor faces reliability issues due to age and rate of use.
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