Amtrak’s new Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Maryland, US has taken another step forward with the awarding of the primary construction contract to a Kiewit/J.F. Shea joint venture. 

The joint venture will be responsible for building the two parallel, single track tunnel tubes, both around two miles long, for the tunnel, which is part of a wider multi-billion dollar programme to transform the national railroad’s Northeast Corridor and will replace the 150-year-old B&P tunnel. 

Funding for the project was boosted in late 2023 by the awarding of around $4.7bn towards the tunnel by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

Laura Mason, Amtrak’s executive vice president for capital delivery, said: “We are one step closer to unlocking the biggest passenger rail bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. 

“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.” 

A visualisation of Amtrak and MARC train going through two tunnels
The tunnel will include two tubes of around two miles long. Credit: Amtrak

The significant contract is the second of three major contracts for the project, following Amtrak’s selection of a Clark Construction and Stacy and Witbeck joint venture to work on the Southern Approach section of the project, including the replacement of bridges and construction of a new West Baltimore MARC station. 

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In addition to modernising the aging infrastructure currently used by the B&P tunnel, the new tunnel will also allow electrified passenger trains to operate faster, with train currently restricted to 30mph due to the tight curves in the B&P structure. 

The Frederick Douglass tunnel, named after the writer and abolitionist from Maryland, is scheduled for completion in 2035, with another contract for the fitting out of the tunnel expected in 2025/2026.