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February 6, 2024

Amtrak Awards Contract to Build New Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore

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Tunnel construction scheduled to begin in 2026; other Program activities already underway

BALTIMORE – Amtrak has achieved a major milestone for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program with the selection of a Kiewit/J.F. Shea Joint Venture to build the brand new, state-of-the-art passenger rail tunnel that will serve electrified Amtrak and MARC commuter trains.

“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 is the centerpiece of Amtrak’s Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program, which will 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, a Maryland native whose 206th birthday is later this month.

“The new Frederick Douglass Tunnel will generate fresh opportunities for Marylanders and help secure our transportation future,” said Maryland Governor 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.”

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.

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 is committed to doing the right thing, including engaging with the community throughout the planning, design and construction processes. Since initial planning to replace the B&P Tunnel began over a decade ago, 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 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.”

The past year has featured several major milestones for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program:

  • January 30, 2023: President Biden and partners joined Amtrak in Baltimore to kick off the program, execute the Project Kickoff Agreement and celebrate the Project Labor Agreement with the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council.
  • March 2, 2023: Amtrak hosted an “Industry Day” to engage potential contractors and bring attention to this critical infrastructure program.
  • March 10, 2023: Amtrak began early work activities along an approximately five-mile section in the Halethorpe and West Baltimore areas.
  • June 2023: Amtrak completed the first set of early work activities that began in March, replacing aging wooden ties with 13,500 new concrete ties, installing 28,000 feet of new rail and completing track drainage improvements.
  • September 2023: Amtrak awarded two important contracts that will advance the Program, including the “Southern Approach” (Package B) contract that includes a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC Station, replacing multiple bridges, and constructing tracks and other railroad infrastructure, among other work.
  • September 26 & 28, 2023: Amtrak hosted two community open house events to discuss the overall Program and provide an opportunity to meet the Program team. These open houses are part of Amtrak’s community engagement efforts, including regular updates at community group meetings, pop-ups and other engagement activities in the community.
  • November 6, 2023: President Biden announced $16.4B in federal grants for NEC projects, including up to $4.7B for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program. With this announcement, the Program is now fully funded. The rest of the Program budget will be funded by contributions from Amtrak and the State of Maryland for a total Program budget of approximately $6 billion.
  • November 13, 2023: Maryland Governor Wes Moore, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen and Amtrak announced commitments from Amtrak, Baltimore City, and the state of Maryland to support the Baltimore Workforce Hub and ensure a skilled workforce is ready to support major infrastructure investments in Baltimore, like the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program.
  • January 9, 2024: Amtrak hosted a community meeting to discuss the temporary, one-year relocation of Lafayette & Payson Park slated for 2026 while bridge construction takes place. Amtrak also solicited feedback on the plan and park amenities; feedback can be submitted here through February 13.

The third and final construction contract to “fit out” the Frederick Douglass Tunnel with tracks, rail systems and more will be announced at a future date, with an anticipated award in 2025/2026. Amtrak will also soon select a Delivery Partner to coordinate and support the successful execution of the Program.

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


Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott

“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. 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.”

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld

“The selection of a contractor to build the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel is an exciting step forward in this long-awaited project. MDOT looks forward to continued collaboration with Amtrak, our federal partners and the local community as we work to improve the safety of our rail system.”

Transportation Trades Department (AFL-CIO) President Greg Regan

“As the largest transportation labor federation in the country, we wholeheartedly support the modernization of America’s passenger rail systems and the utilization of skilled union workers in the process. This joint venture announcement brings us a crucial step closer to improving service and sustainability for the 12 million passengers who rely on the busy Northeast Corridor.”

Rail Passengers Association President & CEO Jim Mathews

“This is welcome news for the 12 million people who rode Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor last year and the many millions more who are sure to make the switch soon to safe, fast, hassle-free travel. Anyone who has been on a train at the south end of the Baltimore station knows how frustrating it is to slalom slowly back-and-forth in this Civil War-era structure, and today’s announcement is just one more step towards giving Americans the modern rail network we all deserve.”

For More Information

W. Kyle Anderson
Amtrak Contact
202 906.3860

About Amtrak®

For more than 50 years, Amtrak has connected America and modernized train travel. Offering a safe, environmentally efficient way to reach more than 500 destinations across 46 states and parts of Canada, Amtrak provides travelers with an experience that sets a new standard. Book travel, check train status, access your eTicket and more through the Amtrak app. Learn more at and connect with us on X, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Amtrak’s Historic Infrastructure Investments

Amtrak is leading a new era of passenger rail, investing in modern trains, enhanced stations, new tunnels and bridges, and other critical infrastructure upgrades. We’re enhancing the customer experience across the country, improving safety and reliability, driving economic development, reducing trip times, expanding capacity, advancing accessibility and promoting a more sustainable future.

Traditionally known as a passenger rail operator, today Amtrak is now a major construction company executing the largest capital program in Amtrak’s history. With over $50 billion of capital investments in planning and development, these historic investments are made possible by the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) enacted in 2021.