US national railroad company Amtrak has revealed the first of three major construction contractors to be chosen for work on the Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore, Maryland, to replace the existing B&P tunnel.

A joint venture between Clark Construction and Stacy and Witbeck has been selected to work on this phase of construction following a yearlong procurement process for the Southern Approach section of the tunnel.

The Frederick Douglass tunnel is a $6bn project to replace the 150-year-old B&P tunnel, with the Southern Approach construction package (Package B) covering the new West Baltimore MARC station, the replacement of multiple bridges and the construction of the section of the tunnel from south of West Baltimore station to north of the new tunnel south portal.

Maryland’s transportation secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said: “This important milestone moves us one step closer to bringing the long-anticipated replacement of the B&P Tunnel into fruition.”

Early construction work on the project began in March of this year with works in the Halethorpe and West Baltimore areas covering the replacement of ageing wooden ties with concrete ties and the installation of new rail.

In addition to the Southern Approach package, separate contracts have been awarded to K.K. Adams and Delaware Cornerstone Builders for supplemental preconstruction activities.

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Maryland transit administrator Holly Arnold added. “The Frederick Douglass Tunnel is a critical infrastructure project which will improve mobility and access for riders across the region.”

The ambitious tunnel project is supported in part by federal funding under the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and with contributions from Amtrak and the State of Maryland, with the railroad company applying for additional funding from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in June alongside a number of other projects.

Commenting on the awarding of the Package B contract, FRA Administrator Amit Bose said: “The Federal Railroad Administration is proud of our support of the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel and this project is one of several we plan to move forward through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and as part of our agency’s commitment to modernising and expanding passenger rail.”

Amtrak is expecting to award Package A, covering the construction of the tunnel, later this year and will award Package C, the tunnel fit out, in 2025/2026.