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Amtrak awards contract to build new Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore

Amtrak announced that it has selected a Kiewit/J.F. Shea Joint Venture to build the brand new, state-of-the-art passenger rail tunnel that will serve electrified Amtrak and MARC commuter trains for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program in Baltimore, MD.

“We are one step closer to unlocking the biggest passenger rail bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and New Jersey,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President, Capital Delivery Laura Mason. “This would not be possible without historic funding through the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, as well as continued support from the Biden-Harris Administration, FRA and our funding partners at Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA).”

The Frederick Douglass Tunnel will replace Amtrak’s existing B&P Tunnel, which opened 150 years ago during the Ulysses S. Grant Administration. Over the years, Amtrak has made significant investments to keep the B&P Tunnel safe and operational. However, several age-related issues, including excessive water infiltration and a sinking floor, have required continuous upkeep.

The overall Program is scheduled for completion in 2035 and will be delivered through three major construction contracts, which include:

  • Replacing five roadway and rail bridges; building new rail infrastructure (interlockings, tracks, catenary/power, etc.); and constructing a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station.
  • Building the Frederick Douglass Tunnel (both tubes).
  • “Fitting out” the new tunnel with tracks, rail systems and ventilation facilities.

This generational investment is the centerpiece of Amtrak’s Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program, which will modernize and transform an approximately 16-km (10-mile) section of the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The new tunnel is named in honor of civil rights leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a Maryland native.

“The new Frederick Douglass Tunnel will generate fresh opportunities for Marylanders and help secure our transportation future,” said Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. “This project marks an important step forward in our work to build strong pathways to work, wages, and wealth for all — while investing in critical infrastructure throughout the state. I’m grateful for the partnership of the Biden-Harris Administration and all of the stakeholders who have come together to make this vision a reality.”

Located just south of Baltimore Penn Station, the new tunnel will serve electrified passenger trains with two parallel, single-track tunnel tubes, each approximately 3.2 km (2 miles) long. It will also support much faster travel speeds than the existing tunnel, where trains are currently limited to maximum speeds of 30 mph due to the tight curves.

Collectively, these investments will improve travel times for more than 12 million annual Amtrak and MARC passengers who rely on the NEC. When the Frederick Douglass Tunnel opens, it will be the first new passenger rail tunnel built on the NEC since 1986, and the first in Maryland since 1934.

The third and final construction contract to “fit out” the Frederick Douglass Tunnel with tracks, rail systems and more will be announced at a future date, with an anticipated award in 2025/2026. Amtrak will also soon select a Delivery Partner to coordinate and support the successful execution of the Program.

Construction of the new tunnel is being delivered through the innovative Construction Manager At-Risk (CMAR) delivery method, which improves project delivery time and allows design, pre-construction and other work to proceed simultaneously.

Photo credit: Amtrak

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