The Susquehanna River Rail Bridge carries Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, MARC’s Penn Line, and Norfolk Southern over the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville, Maryland.
In 1837, the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad (PW&B) and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) south from Wilmington, Delaware, and north from Baltimore arrived at the banks of the Susquehanna River at Havre de Grace and Perryville. For 29 years, a train ferry carried freight cars and passengers by foot between the two communities. 2 A larger ferry boat began to transport passenger cars across the river in 1854.
In 1866, after twelve years of intermittent construction, the PW&B completed a single-track railroad bridge with a wooden deck truss. Iron reinforcements were added between 1874 and 1880. In 1881, when the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) took control of the PW&B, it cut rival B&O’s access to the PW&B, which forced the company to construct a parallel route between Baltimore and Philadelphia, including a new bridge one mile upstream.
Between 1904 and 1906, the PRR replaced the PW&B crossing with a new bridge just upstream. 2 Opened on May 29, 1906, 3 it included a center swing span to increase the vertical clearance for marine traffic. The old bridge was converted for use by horse-and-buggies and automobiles in 1910 and lasted until being dismantled in 1942-43.
The PRR installed catenaries on the bridge as part of an effort to extend 11,000-volt electrification south from Wilmington Washington, D.C., and regular electrified passenger service across the Susquehanna began on February 10, 1935. 2
Ownership of the bridge passed to Amtrak in 1976 and was operated as part of the high-speed Northeast Corridor. 1 4
The bridge saw significant rehabilitation during the 1960s, 1985, 1991, and 1998, which included the replacement of corroded steel bride floor members, adding steel plates to stiffen loose connections, repairing cracks, and installing new timber decking. 1 In 2005 and 2007, Amtrak replaced railroad ties, installed continuous welded rail, and installed new maintenance walkways intended to extend the life of the bridge by 20 to 25 years. 5
In May 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced $22 million in funding toward engineering and environmental work to replace the functionally obsolete and structurally aging Susquehanna River Rail Bridge. 6 Although it was considered in fair condition, it only offered 52-feet of vertical clearance for marine traffic. 7 The swing span is opened approximately ten times per year and requires a crew of 30 workers to open.
The new Susquehanna River Rail Bridge will include twin girder and arch spans that provide 60 feet of vertical clearance and over 200 feet of horizontal clearance for marine traffic. 8 One bridge will accommodate two tracks for MARC and Norfolk Southern with a maximum design speed of up to 90 mph, while the other bridge will accommodate two tracks for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor with a maximum design speed of 160 mph. It is estimated that the project will take five years to complete and cost $930 million.
- State: Maryland
- Route: Amtrak, MARC, Norfolk Southern
- Type: Pratt Deck Truss, Pratt Through Truss
- Status: Active - Railroad
- Total Length: 4,154 feet
- Main Span Length: 280 feet
- “Bridge History.” Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project.
- Roberts, Charles S., and David W. Messer. Triumph VI: Philadelphia, Columbia, Harrisburg to Baltimore and Washington DC: 1827-2003. Barnard, Roberts, and Co., 2003.
- Baer, Christopher T. “PRR Chronology: 1906.”
- Baer, Christopher T. “PRR Chronology: 1976.”
- “Capital Investment in Bridge Aims to Improve Reliability.” Amtrak, Mar. 2007, pp. 1–7.
- “U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $2 Billion for High-Speed Intercity Rail Projects to Grow Jobs, Boost U.S. Manufacturing and Transform Travel in America.” U.S. Department of Transportation, 9 May 2011.
- “Purpose & Need.” Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project.
- Federal Railroad Administration, 2017, pp. 2–1-2–16, Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project Environmental Assessment And Draft 4(f) Evaluation.