US$4.7 billion Frederick Douglass Tunnel project contracts awarded

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The US$4.7 billion Frederick Douglass Tunnel project in Baltimore has been awarded to two engineering and construction firms. Amtrak awarded the contract to Kiewit Corporation and J.F Shea Construction Inc this week. The project involves the replacement of a 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. The old tunnel follows a curvy track under Bolton Hill, Upton and Sandtown-Winchester while the new one will arc smoothly to the north under Reservoir Hill and Penn North before emerging near a new West Baltimore MARC station.

The Frederick Douglass Tunnel project phases

The overall Program will be delivered through three major construction contracts. The first includes replacing five roadway and rail bridges and building new rail infrastructure (interlockings, tracks, catenary/power, etc. Additionally, it involves constructing a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station. The second part of the project involves building the Frederick Douglass Tunnel (both tubes). Further, the third phase involves fitting out the new tunnel with tracks, rail systems and ventilation facilities. 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 new tunnel is named in honor of civil rights leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a Maryland native whose 206th birthday is later this month.

“As we build on Baltimore’s renaissance, it is critical to take advantage of these federal investments, which will help ensure our city’s transportation has the world-class infrastructure it needs. The Frederick Douglass Tunnel program is going to be a gamechanger for our city and the entire region, and I am encouraged by Amtrak and USDOT’s intentional approach and emphasis on community engagement. These contract awards are the next step in the process and bring us closer to seeing the results of these necessary improvements to our city and regions infrastructure,” said the Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

Trains that pass through the tunnel

The new tunnel will consist of two tubes. They allow trains to travel 110 mph, primarily serve electrified MARC and Amtrak passenger trains. It offers a new 30-minute express MARC train between Baltimore and Washington, Amtrak said. Biden first announced the project during a visit to Baltimore in January 2023.

Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program | Amtrak

The West Baltimore MARC station project

Last year, Amtrak selected a joint venture of Clark Construction with Stacy and Witbeck for another of the program’s construction contracts, which covers work on the tunnel’s southern approach and a new West Baltimore MARC station. Officials say they expect to award another construction contract, covering tunnel fit out, sometime in 2025 or 2026. Funding for the work is being split among the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and Maryland. In November, President Joe Biden announced $16.4 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for Northeast Corridor project. This includes the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program.

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