Amtrak picks contractors for first phase of $6B tunnel

AwardSouthern Approach (Package B) for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel
Value: At least $1 billion
Location: Baltimore
Client: Amtrak

Amtrak has selected a Clark Construction/Stacy and Witbeck joint venture to build the Southern Approach of the larger $6 billion Frederick Douglass Tunnel project in Baltimore, the railroad said in a Monday press release. 

It’s the first of three major construction contracts awarded for the project, according to Amtrak. Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark Construction and Alameda, California-headquartered Stacy and Witbeck will deliver this $1 billion-plus phase using a construction manager at risk delivery method.

The existing 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel poses the largest bottleneck between Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. The tracks that run through the 1.4-mile-long tunnel under several Baltimore neighborhoods rely on a single structure, so there’s no detour option if it has to close. The Frederick Douglass Tunnel will largely replace the B&P Tunnel, and is designed to speed passenger and freight movement on the Northeast Corridor.

The new Frederick Douglass Tunnel will be located northwest of the current tunnel and will take on the bulk of B&P Tunnel traffic. It will have twin single-track, high-capacity tubes that will enable electric Amtrak and MARC trains to travel up to 100 mph.

Work for the Southern Approach portion of the project entails:

  • Building a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station.
  • Constructing the southern approach from south of the West Baltimore Station area and extending north to the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel south portal.
  • Replacing multiple under-grade railroad bridges.
  • Replacing the Edmondson Avenue and W. Lafayette Avenue bridges.
  • Relocating and realigning various utilities.

The announcement follows a yearlong procurement effort that began in June 2022.

“This award represents the culmination of years of hard work to deliver significant long-term improvements right in the heart of a vital segment of the Northeast Corridor,” said Laura Mason, Amtrak’s executive vice president, capital delivery, in the release.

The project is supported by federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and contributions from Amtrak and the State of Maryland. Amtrak also awarded two separate smaller contracts for preconstruction to Baltimore-based K.K. Adams and Landover, Maryland-based Delaware Cornerstone Builders, two small business enterprises.

There are two other major construction contracts up for grabs:

  • Frederick Douglass Tunnel construction, which is currently in procurement with an award expected later this year.
  • Tunnel fit out, which includes tunnel track, systems and ventilation facilities. Future procurement details have yet to be announced, but the award is anticipated in 2025 or 2026.

Amtrak is also advancing design, property acquisitions and other preparations for smaller construction projects associated with the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program, according to the railroad. Amtrak’s Infrastructure Maintenance and Construction Service team this summer replaced aging wooden ties with new concrete ties, installed new rail and completed track drainage improvements, which will reduce the impact of future construction on operations.

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