Tunnel construction, a lynchpin for many critical infrastructure projects, will be front and center for the next several years. Bridge work will be just as abundant. Tunnels enable seamless transportation, contribute to the efficiency of wastewater treatment facilities, and enhance flood mitigation efforts. Bridges are required for seamless transportation as well, and thousands of America’s bridges are in dire need of repair. Currently, there is no shortage of opportunities for contractors who offer services related to tunnels and bridges. And, as the new infrastructure funding approved by Congress begins to flow, this very heated marketplace will expand and get hotter.

Tunnel construction is currently at the heart of a sprawling project to change how people travel between New York and New Jersey. The port authority for the metropolitan area will oversee a project that includes tunnel construction designed to improve a critical rail connection between the states. A new tunnel, called the Hudson River Tunnel, will be constructed to allow for railroad infrastructure beneath the Hudson River. The project has a projected cost of $9.2 billion. The authority will also oversee rehabilitation work on the existing North River Tunnel. That project, with an estimated cost of $1.8 billion, will begin once the new rail tunnel is constructed.

New Jersey is set to replace two aging bridges in poor condition. Federal funding will support the $143 million replacement of the Route 3 bridge in the Meadowlands, and a four-span bridge has been selected as the preliminary preferred alternative to replace the Route 9W Bridge in Bergen County, New Jersey, based on an evaluation of cost and constructability. The Route 9W Bridge project will involve a full bridge replacement, installation of 8-foot-wide shoulders, and addition of continuous 6-foot wide sidewalks on both sides of the bridge.

New tunnel opportunities in Missouri will be related to water and wastewater infrastructure. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District plans to spend $6 billion on several tunnel projects for an initiative called Project Clear. Three new underground tunnels will be constructed to improve regional water quality and mitigate wastewater issues.

The DC Clean Rivers Project in Washington, D.C., calls for construction of a sewage tunnel to capture pollutants in the Potomac River and redirect them to a nearby wastewater treatment plant. The DC Water utility will oversee the project and solicitations will be released during the second half of 2022. Project costs have been estimated at $2.7 billion.

Final design work is underway for a project that will replace a Civil War-era railway tunnel in Maryland. The Baltimore & Potomac (B&P) Tunnel Replacement Program will address issues with Amtrak’s oldest tunnel. Demolition and other early initial work will begin in 2022. Construction of the replacement tunnel will follow, and the overall project cost carries a price tag of $4 billion.

Maryland’s Howard Street Tunnel Project is another initiative to watch. Preliminary design work is ongoing for the $466 million plan to lower a rail track and upgrade various bridges. The work will focus on modernizing a railroad tunnel built in 1895. The design involves enabling double-stack train service between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Solicitation documents will be released in the second quarter of 2022. Construction will begin shortly thereafter and last for three years.

Improvements planned for several of Rhode Island’s sewer overflow facilities include construction of a 12,000-foot-long tunnel in the city of Pawtucket. Design work has already started. The $715 million project that will reduce stormwater inflow.

The Mountain Tunnel Improvements Project in California includes interior repairs and modifications for an existing 19-mile tunnel in the Sierra Mountain Range. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will oversee the $139 million project that includes mass excavation, construction of a retaining wall, and numerous complicated repairs. Work on the interior of the tunnel is set to begin in 2022, and the estimated date for completion is December 2026.

California’s Department of Water will oversee a slate of big budget tunnel projects. One of the projects alone carries an estimated price tag of $16 billion. The objective of that project is to safeguard the water supply in the Delta region of California. This region, prone to earthquakes, is vulnerable to a collapse of the state’s antiquated levee system. Such a catastrophe would contaminate drinking water for thousands of people. Upcoming stages of the project include public review and engagement activities scheduled for mid-2022. Construction solicitations will be released in 2023.

A feasibility study in Harris County, Texas, is underway for a potential tunnel project. The stormwater study will outline the county’s flood mitigation needs and suggest an approach based on tunnel-related work. Specifically, the study will examine a plan for construction of large diameter tunneling networks to shift excess stormwater out of the county’s watersheds. It will recommend a maximum of three alternative tunnel construction plans for flood mitigation. The $2.5 million study was funded from a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery. The encompassing Stormwater Tunnel effort will be funded from a bond package that was approved by voters. It carries a $20 million funding allocation.

America’s infrastructure was in dire need of attention long before the most recent infrastructure funding bill was passed by Congress. The revenue required for the projects was minimal, but many visionary leaders found ways to capture enough of it to launch projects similar to the ones outlined here. The infrastructure funding that has been highly publicized has not yet started flowing … but that will happen soon.

The new federal funding allocations for each state will continue to encourage the launching of infrastructure improvements for resilience, transportation, water, and wastewater. With immediate needs, high expectations for growth, and available funding, the new revenue will jump-start many more tunnel and bridge projects.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.