AMTRAK has awarded two contracts for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Programme in Baltimore, which aims to deliver a 6.4km realignment of the Northeast (NEC) Corridor in the city, including the construction of a new 3.2km tunnel.

Amtrak has selected the Clark Construction/Stacy and Witbeck joint venture for the Southern Approach construction package following the successful completion of a procurement process that began in June 2022.

The Southern Approach Package will be delivered using a construction management at-risk (CMAR) method and includes the construction of a new accessible West Baltimore Maryland Area Rail Commuter (Marc) station, constructing the southern approach from the south of the West Baltimore Station area and extending north to the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel south portal, replacing three railway underpasses and two bridges, and relocating and realigning various utilities.

The other contract has been awarded to KK Adams and Delaware Cornerstone Builders, which are described by Amtrak as two local Small Business Enterprises (SBE) that will complete supplemental preconstruction ahead of the start of major construction work.

Package A for construction of the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel remains in the procurement phase and Amtrak says will be awarded later this year. Package B, the tunnel fit out contract, will be awarded in 2025 or 2026.

The approximately $US 6bn project is expected to be completed by the end of the decade.

The federal government’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is providing $US 4.5bn of funding for the programme. Amtrak, and the State of Maryland will also contribute to the project.

Amtrak says it is continuing to advance design, property acquisitions, and preparations for other smaller construction projects associated with the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Programme. This summer, its Infrastructure Maintenance and Construction Service (IMCS) team completed a project to replace wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers, installing new rail and completing track drainage improvements, which has improved ride quality, increased track speed and will minimise the impact of future construction activities on operations.

The existing 150-year-old 2.25km Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel is a major bottleneck on the NEC with the 90-100 Amtrak and Marc trains that use it every week day limited to 50km/h. The new tunnel will support speeds of up to 160km/h.

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