Amtrak officials joined representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the state of Maryland, SMART TD Alt. National Legislative Director Jared Cassity and President Biden to kick off the first phase of the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program in Baltimore. The Civil War-era tunnel will be replaced by the brand-new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, increasing service reliability, capacity and speed from 30 mph to a peak of 110 mph. Not only will this save commuters time on the largest rail bottleneck between Washington, DC and New Jersey; thanks to a new project labor agreement (PLA), both SMART sheet metal workers and SMART Transportation Division members working at Amtrak stand to benefit for years to come.
“The sorely needed replacement of the B&P Tunnel represents one of the largest infrastructure projects in the region,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “It will improve the lives of Amtrak riders and the SMART TD members who work those trains, and the PLA covering the project will ensure the job is completed by highly skilled workers – lifting local communities up in the process. Our members look forward to applying their professionalism and craft to this vital work.”
The PLA, negotiated by Amtrak and the Baltimore-DC Building and Construction Trades Council, will cover the replacement of the Warwick Bridge and is the first of its kind under a 2021 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Amtrak and North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). The MOU will apply to Amtrak’s major civil engineering projects moving forward, including the remaining phases of the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program, and will help put SMART sheet metal members to work on critical infrastructure jobs across the country.
Once completed, the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel will vastly improve the lives and working conditions of SMART TD Amtrak workers.
The B&P Tunnel is Amtrak’s oldest tunnel on the Northeast Corridor and, according to an Amtrak media release, a single point of failure for both MARC and Amtrak trains. The 1.4-mile tunnel connects Baltimore to Washington, DC, and endures a range of age-related maladies, including excessive water infiltration, structural deterioration and delays that impact more than 10% of trains during the week. All of this not only impacts the lives of commuters; it complicates the work SMART TD members perform on a daily basis.
Now, thanks to the receipt of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – as well as a $450 million contribution from the state of Maryland, which will combine with Amtrak’s intended commitment of approximately $750 million – Amtrak workers can look forward to performing their duties with significantly less hassle.
“As the workers who safely transport passengers to their destinations every day, SMART TD members know better than anyone how vital it is for our rail infrastructure to be up-to-date and geared towards safety,” Cassity said. “The B&P Tunnel replacement will benefit commuters and Amtrak workers for generations to come, and we applaud Amtrak, the state of Maryland and the federal government for pursuing it.”
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