Kiewit/J.F. Shea Joint Venture awarded contract from Amtrak for Frederick Douglass Tunnel

Feb. 7, 2024
Amtrak has contracted the Kiewit/J.F. Shea Joint Venture to work on the construction of a new electrified tunnel through the Construction Manager At-Risk delivery method.

Amtrak has selected the Kiewit/J.F. Shea Joint Venture to build the brand new passenger rail tunnel that will serve electrified Amtrak and MARC commuter trains as a part of the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program.

Located just south of Baltimore Penn Station, the new tunnel will serve electrified passenger trains with two parallel, single-track tunnel tubes, each approximately two miles long. It will also support much faster travel speeds than the existing tunnel, where trains are currently limited to maximum speeds of 30 mph due to the tight curves.

“We are one step closer to unlocking the biggest passenger rail bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and New Jersey,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President, Capital Delivery Laura Mason. “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 (MDOT MTA).”

This generational investment will work to modernize and transform an approximately 10-mile section of the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The new tunnel is named in honor of civil rights leader and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

“The new Frederick Douglass Tunnel will generate fresh opportunities for Marylanders and help secure our transportation future,” said Maryland Gov. Wes Moore. “This project marks an important step forward in our work to build strong pathways to work, wages and wealth for all — while investing in critical infrastructure throughout the state. I’m grateful for the partnership of the Biden-Harris Administration and all of the stakeholders who have come together to make this vision a reality.”

The overall program is scheduled for completion in 2035 and will be delivered through three major construction contracts, which include:

  • Replacing five roadway and rail bridges, building new rail infrastructure (interlockings, tracks, catenary/power, etc.) and constructing a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station
  • Building the Frederick Douglass Tunnel (both tubes)
  • “Fitting out” the new tunnel with tracks, rail systems and ventilation facilities

Collectively, these investments will improve travel times for more than 12 million annual Amtrak and MARC passengers who rely on the NEC. 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 Frederick Douglass Tunnel will replace Amtrak’s existing B&P Tunnel, which opened 150 years ago during the Ulysses S. Grant Administration. Over the years, Amtrak has made significant investments to keep the B&P Tunnel safe and operational. However, several age-related issues, including excessive water infiltration and a sinking floor, have required continuous upkeep.

Amtrak and its partners have conducted hundreds of outreach engagements with local residents and community organizations to guide program development, share updates and discuss future activities.

Throughout tunnel construction, Amtrak said it will continue to keep the community informed and updated, perform real-time monitoring and undertake other industry-leading activities to protect adjacent properties.

“Consistent and transparent community engagement is a top priority for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program Team,” said Amtrak Assistant Vice President Luigi Rosa, who is leading the program. “The Kiewit-Shea Joint Venture brings extensive experience with tunneling projects around North America and we look forward to introducing them to the community at an upcoming ‘Meet the Contractors’ event in the spring.”

Construction of the new tunnel is being delivered through the innovative Construction Manager At-Risk delivery method, which improves project delivery time and allows design, pre-construction and other work to proceed simultaneously.

“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," said Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott. "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.”