Amtrak stepping up efforts for B&P Tunnel ReplacementWritten by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
WASHINGTON - Amtrak is pursuing a Delivery Partner model as part of its plans to replace the B&P Tunnel.
According to Amtrak, “In a Delivery Partner model, the private partner takes on substantial risk-sharing, impacting overall project outcomes. More than two dozen industry leaders responded to Amtrak’s recent Request for Information (RFI), which invited feedback on use of the Delivery Partner model.”
Tony Ryan, Amtrak’s Vice President, Program Development & Project Services, said, “Amtrak received strong industry response to the Delivery Partner RFI, demonstrating a significant appetite for a private partner with ‘skin in the game’ to ensure a successful project delivery. Timely advancement of this program is critical as we work to modernize and transform the Northeast Corridor, reducing delays and adding capacity for the future.”
The B&P tunnel was built during the Civil War, and is nearly 150 years old. The tunnel is 1.4 miles long, and Amtrak says that “Due to its age, delays are chronic – more than 10% of weekday trains are delayed, and delays occur on 99% of weekdays.” The tunnel is a critical part of the Northeast Corridor, and hosts Amtrak’s Acela, Northeast Regional, and long-distance trains, as well as the MARC Penn Line.
Amtrak has shared other issues with the tunnel. “[The Tunnel] suffers from a variety of age-related issues such as excessive water infiltration, a deteriorating structure, and a sinking floor. There are no fire and life safety systems that help keep passengers safe in the event of emergencies, and excessive costly maintenance is required.”
Solicitation for the Delivery Partner is expected to launch in January 2023. The Delivery Partner engagement complements the construction manager at risk (CMAR) for the first phase of the Program, the Southern Approach, which is already in the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage of procurement. The Southern Approach CMAR solicitation includes:
- the new ADA-compliant West Baltimore MARC Station
- all major excavation for the approach to the south portal for the new tunnel and bridge construction
- some utility and roadway work
The agency plans to build what will be called The Frederick Douglass Tunnel, named after the famous Maryland native and early leader in the fight for the rights of women and minorities. Douglass was also a frequent railroad passenger after escaping to his freedom by boarding a train in Baltimore.
This program will do more than just replace the tunnel. According to Amtrak, “the plans for the tunnel replacement will transform a four-mile section of the Northeast Corridor. It includes two new high-capacity tubes for electrified passenger trains, new roadway and railroad bridges, new rail systems and track, and a new ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC station.”
Amtrak reports that this CMAR procurement is the first major project procurement since Amtrak was awarded the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding. Further, it’s the agency’s first use of the CMAR alternate delivery method, which will improve project delivery time and allow design, pre-construction and pricing work to proceed simultaneously.
Once the Frederick Douglass Tunnel is complete, it will be used exclusively for passenger service while the existing B&P tunnel will be used only for freight service. Amtrak adds that “Future construction packages for the Program will be announced in 2023. This will include one tunnel package for the twin bore tunnel construction work, featuring two parallel tunnels, each containing a single rail track.”