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Kiewit-Shea JV nabs $1B Baltimore Amtrak tunnel contract

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Award: Frederick Douglass Tunnel
Value: Over $1 billion
Location: Baltimore
Client: Amtrak

Amtrak selected the Kiewit and J.F. Shea Construction joint venture to build the Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore, the rail agency announced in a Feb. 6 press release. It’s the second of three major components in an $6 billion program to replace the 150-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel. 

Omaha, Nebraska-based Kiewit and Walnut, California-headquartered J.F. Shea will deliver the pair of rail tunnels through a construction manager at-risk delivery method, per the release.

The aging B&P Tunnel has experienced excessive water infiltration and a sinking floor, and 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 tunnel will have twin single-track, high-capacity tubes that will enable electric Amtrak and MARC trains to travel up to 100 mph. Currently, trains are limited to 30 mph due to the B&P Tunnel’s 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 in the release.

Funding for the work is being split among the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and Maryland. The project got an up to $4.7 billion infusion of funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in November 2023.

Previously, Amtrak selected a Clark Construction/Stacy and Witbeck joint venture to build the Southern Approach portion of the project. Bethesda, Maryland-based Clark Construction and Alameda, California-headquartered Stacy Witbeck will deliver this $1 billion-plus phase using a construction manager at risk delivery method.

There’s one more major construction contract still up for grabs: 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.

Tunnel construction is scheduled to start in 2026 and the project is slated to finish in 2035.

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