Amtrak Bottleneck on Track for Replacement

$1.5B project to rebuild Md.’s Susquehanna River Rail Bridge

Amtrak has announced plans to solicit construction bids to replace the Susquehanna River rail bridge, a longstanding bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor.

Built in 1906 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, the 4,154-ft-long two-track truss bridge in northeast Maryland has speed restrictions that constrain the movement of more than 110 passenger and freight trains each day. The replacement program, estimated by Amtrak to cost at least $1.5 billion, calls for constructing two two-track fixed bridges, five miles of additional track realignment and construction, and modernization of overhead power, signal, safety and security systems. 

Along with providing added capacity, the new structures will be designed to accommodate Amtrak’s plans for 160-mph service in the corridor.

In the coming months, Amtrak says it will issue a construction manager at risk solicitation to construct the new bridges in two phases, the first of which will include demolition and removal of the existing structure. The CMAR contractor will also provide preconstruction services for the entire project. A separate design-bid-build contract solicitation will be issued for enabling works.

Both contracts are scheduled to be awarded in 2023 by Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA), which are jointly funding the project. HNTB is leading final design of the new structures under a $20-million final design grant authorized by the US Dept. of Transportation this past summer.

Amtrak and MTA are also exploring opportunities to jointly pursue additional funding for the cost of construction under the FRA’s Federal State Partnership for Intercity Rail Grant Program.

Planning for replacement of the Susquehanna River rail bridge, the Northeast Corridor’s longest movable structure, has been underway since 2013. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for a replacement strategy was completed in May 2017 with the release of a Finding of No Significant Impact.

Meanwhile, plans for the replacement of the century-old Connecticut River Bridge, which is at risk of operational failure, are underway. Currently at 90% design, the project will cost an estimated $500 million.