US President Biden, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Amtrak have joined Maryland officials to execute the Project Kickoff Agreement with the State of Maryland to celebrate 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.
“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,” said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner. “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 intends to commit $450M in state funding to support this major infrastructure project, which includes the construction of the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel. These funds, combined with Amtrak’s intended commitment of approximately $750M, put the project closer to achieving full funding under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program. Once work is complete, service reliability, capacity and speed will increase from 30mph to up to 110mph, saving commuters time on what is currently the largest rail bottleneck between Washington, D.C. and New Jersey.
“Investment in transit infrastructure is fundamental to expanding economic opportunities and promoting more reliable, customer-focused service to Marylanders,” said Governor Wes Moore. “The Frederick Douglass Tunnel project stands as more evidence of our commitment to modernize and transform transit throughout the state.”
“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,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, Acting Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation. “This critical infrastructure project will improve both passenger and commuter rail for Marylanders.”
“The launch of the Fredrick Douglass Tunnel project shows that transit in Maryland has a bright future,” said MDOT MTA Administrator Holly Arnold. “This project will ultimately lead to improved reliability and increased travel options for our riders.”
In addition to the project kickoff agreement with Maryland, a new PLA has been signed between Amtrak and the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council, which is a local affiliate of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), to cover the replacement of the Warwick Bridge that can serve 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 major civil engineering projects, including the remaining phases of the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program. The PLA is a collective bargaining agreement that will govern terms and conditions of employment for workers constructing the bridge replacement.
NABTU President Sean McGarvey said, “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.”
“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,” said Gardner.
On a national level, having the MOU in place with NABTU ensures that:
Amtrak and NABTU will not face labor-related delays in the planning and contracting of major projects
Contractors and subcontractors share Amtrak’s commitment to paying fair wages and benefits
Amtrak and NABTU can move forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funded projects with efficient labor-management relations.
At nearly 150 years old, the B&P Tunnel is Amtrak’s oldest tunnel on the Northeast Corridor and a single point of failure for both MARC and Amtrak trains. The 1.4-mile tunnel, connecting Baltimore to Washington, D.C., suffers from a variety of age-related issues such as excessive water infiltration, a deteriorating structure and delays that impact more than 10% of weekday trains.
The $6bn program is comprised of several investment projects to construct new bridges, rail systems and track, an ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC station and the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which will include two new high-capacity tubes for electrified passenger trains.
After receipt of new federal funding created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Amtrak is scheduled to launch early construction activities this year.