Amtrak has issued a solicitation for letters of interest in a construction manager-at-risk contract (CMAR) for the $1-billion first major contract of a planned three contracts that make up a nearly $5-billion passenger rail tunnel megaproject in Baltimore.

The plan calls for replacing the 149-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel with two new high-capacity ones, named for Frederick Douglass, the prominent abolitionist and native of Maryland.

When complete, the goal of the three-part project is to upgrade a four-mile segment of Amtrak’s mainstay Northeast Corridor.

The deadline for submitting letters of interest is July 8. Amtrak will make the detailed request for proposals available to qualified entities that send in such expressions of interest. The railroad says it anticipates issuing the RFP in August.

Laura Mason, Amtrak executive vice president of capital delivery, said in a statement, "This is a major milestone for the B&P Replacement Program and this contract includes several critical elements of the project."

In its solicitation, posted June 9 and announced on June 21, Amtrak said the main elements of the first contract are the southern approach to the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel and a new Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) West Baltimore Station west of Amtrak’s Pennsylvania Station.

Work includes an open-cut excavation to the tunnel’s south portal as well as under-grade and overhead bridges. 

The plan also calls for a new track alignment with a flatter curve than the existing one, which Amtrak says will allow for higher speeds.

The flatter curve also is needed to allow the new West Baltimore MARC Station to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, the railroad says.

In its solicitation, Amtrak says the selected contractor will work with Amtrak’s in-house design team and also is to prepare a proposed construction price for the project.

If Amtrak accepts the proposed price, the rail company will enter into a construction contract with the winning firm or team after the preconstruction phase.

If Amtrak does not accept the contractor’s proposed price, it may terminate the contractor’s participation in the project and seek other bidders.

Amtrak says it will use a single-phase, best value procurement for the first package, including qualifications and price factors.

Minimum qualifications for the contractor include a tangible net worth of at least $400 million, a strong safety record, experience with CMAR and other alternative-delivery methods and having carried out construction work on three to five projects over the past 10 years “with similar scope” as the Baltimore project.