Aecom team wins $6bn contract to upgrade America’s busiest passenger line

Baltimore’s Penn Station, where the Frederick Douglass Tunnel will end, behind the Jones Falls Expressway (Jon Bilous/Dreamstime)
A team led by US engineers Aecom and Jacobs has won Amtrak’s first ever “delivery partner” contract, which will tackle a $6bn upgrade of a rail corridor in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Frederick Douglass Tunnel Programme includes improvements to a 16km section of the Northeast Corridor, America’s busiest passenger rail line.

The contract includes the creation and installation of two tubes for electrified passenger trains travelling at 160km/h. This will replace a 150-year-old tunnel, and will improve services to the 12 million passengers a year who travel between Boston and Washington.

Amtrak opted to use a delivery partner model for the project. This is where a private partner shares Amtrak’s project delivery risk and works with Amtrak to achieve programme outcomes.

Among the responsibilities of the Advance, as the team is called, will be programme management, design oversight, construction oversight, commissioning oversight, programme controls, and commercial and capacity building.

The team includes Aldea, Dr Sauer, RailPros, Sener, Turner & Townsend and 22 small businesses.

Mark Southwell, Aecom’s chief executive for transport, said: “This ambitious programme will enhance passenger mobility by unlocking the biggest rail bottleneck between Washington DC and New Jersey while also supporting low-carbon, electrified service and fostering economic growth through job creation in Baltimore and the surrounding region.”

Early construction of the project began in 2023, with major construction is due to begin this year.

Previously known as the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, the tunnel was renamed in 2023 in honour of Maryland-born civil rights leader Frederick Douglass.

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