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President Biden Kicks Off Baltimore Rail Tunnel Project

B&P Tunnel

U.S President Biden, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Amtrak have united Maryland officials to manage the Project Kickoff Agreement with the State of Maryland to mark the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council for the first phase of the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program in Baltimore.

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak CEO, expressed: “Replacing this Civil War-era B&P tunnel will nearly triple train capacity on this critical section of the Northeast Corridor for the nine million annual Amtrak and MARC customers who rely on this vital connection,”

“As we work with Maryland and our labor partners to deliver the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, we are grateful for essential funding that the Biden Administration has designated for this project, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the strong support of our many federal, state and local partners.”

Maryland plans to dedicate $450M in state funding to support this significant infrastructure project, which contains the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel construction. These funds, together with Amtrak’s planned commitment of nearly $750M, put the project closer to accomplishing complete funding under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program.

When the work is complete, service reliability, capacity, and speed will rise from 30mph to up to 110mph, saving commuters time on what is presently the most extensive rail bottleneck between Washington, D.C. and New Jersey.

Governor Wes Moore stated: “Investment in transit infrastructure is fundamental to expanding economic opportunities and promoting more reliable, customer-focused service to Marylanders,”

“The Frederick Douglass Tunnel project stands as more evidence of our commitment to modernize and transform transit throughout the state.”

The Acting Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, Paul J. Wiedefeld, pointed out: “We will continue to work closely with all of our partners to advance the Frederick Douglass Tunnel and support the region with innovative transportation solutions.”

He added: “This critical infrastructure project will improve both passenger and commuter rail for Marylanders.”

Moreover, MDOT MTA Administrator, Holly Arnold, claimed: “The launch of the Fredrick Douglass Tunnel project shows that transit in Maryland has a bright future,”

B&P Tunnel Replacement Program Route

“This project will ultimately lead to improved reliability and increased travel options for our riders.”

Along with the project’s kickoff agreement with Maryland, a new PLA has been signed between the Baltimore-DC Building and Amtrak and Construction Trades Council, which is a local companion of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), to cover the replacement of the Warwick Bridge that can act as a model for other Amtrak projects.

The PLA is the first agreement under a 2021 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Amtrak and NABTU, covering Amtrak’s primary civil engineering projects, comprising the remaining stages of the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program. The PLA is a joint bargaining agreement that will oversee terms and conditions of employment for workers building the bridge replacement.

Sean McGarvey, NABTU President, mentioned: “NABTU is proud to partner with Amtrak to ensure that the major civil engineering projects under its control are performed under collective bargaining agreements with NABTU’s councils and affiliates to ensure that the highly skilled men and women of North America’s Building Trades construct the critical infrastructure necessary for America’s rail system. There is no better place to start our partnership than with the much-needed B&P Tunnel replacement program.”

He continued: “We thank NABTU and the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council for getting this agreement done that will not only be instrumental in advancing the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, but will also serve as a guide for advancing other projects along the NEC.”

On a national level, having the MOU in place with NABTU guarantees that:

Amtrak and NABTU will not encounter labor-related delays in the planning and contracting of main projects

Contractors and subcontractors share Amtrak’s commitment to paying fair wages and benefits

Amtrak and NABTU can carry on with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-funded projects with efficient labor-management relations.

The B&P Tunnel is Amtrak’s oldest tunnel on the Northeast Corridor, at almost 150 years old, and is a single point of failure for both MARC and Amtrak trains. The tunnel is 1.4 miles and links Baltimore to Washington, D.C. It suffers from many age-related problems, such as extreme water infiltration, a deteriorating structure and delays that impact over 10% of weekday trains.

The $6bn plan contains several investment projects to build new bridges, rail systems and track, an ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC station and the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which will comprise two new high-capacity tubes for electrified passenger trains.

Amtrak is organized to launch early construction activities this year after receipt of new federal funding made by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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