Purple Line is 10 Percent Complete, Project Managers Report

Purple Line is 10 Percent Complete, Project Managers Report

Opening date still uncertain for 16-mile light rail system

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Purple Line project managers met with a County Council committee Thursday afternoon and provided updates on construction progress.

Dan Schere

Construction of the Purple Line, a planned 16-mile light rail line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, is 10 percent complete and work on the Bethesda station tunnel is 50 percent complete, project managers told a County Council committee Thursday afternoon.

The line is now projected to open in the spring of 2023, months behind schedule.

Maryland Transit Authority representative Charles Lattuca and Fred Craig, the CEO of public-private partnership Purple Line Transit Partners, said they are doing everything they can to maintain a previously scheduled opening date of late 2022.

Among the highlights of their presentation:

  • 10 percent of the light rail line has been constructed, and 85 percent has been designed.
  • Half of the shaft at the Bethesda station, which is adjacent to the existing Metrorail Red Line Station is complete. So far 75 feet of 145 feet has been excavated.
  • Excavation has been completed on the 1,020–foot Plymouth Street tunnel in Silver Spring. Additional work inside the tunnel will continue until 2020.
  • Work on the portion of the line near the Silver Spring Metro Station and Transit Center will begin this spring as soon as negotiations are complete with Metro and the CSX railroad. The work will result in temporary lane closures on Colesville Road near the station.

Craig assured the committee members that vibrations and noise would no longer be an issue Long Branch residents who live near the Plymouth Street Tunnel, but that night work would continue to ensure the project was kept on schedule.

Council member Tom Hucker, the chairman of the council’s transportation committee, questioned the need for the nighttime work, noting that media reports from January showed millions of dollars in cost overruns and an environmental lawsuit had already delayed the project by a year.

“I was disappointed to find that out in the news… Last time you were here, your argument for why you had to put up with noise was to avoid cost overruns,” he said. “Why not give neighbors some relief?”

Craig responded that the contractor had been instructed to work at all hours of the day, but scaled back the nighttime blasting on the tunnel after residents complained to state transportation officials. He said despite the media reports, his goal is to bring construction back on schedule.

“The remainder of the work is by far quieter,” he said.

Asked by Council member Evan Glass about cost overruns, Lattuca said he wasn’t sure because there were disputes between the contractor and the state over who would pay for the costs.

“The project’s going to be be delayed, so there’s going to be extra costs. I don’t know how much those costs will be,” Lattuca said.

“You’re businessmen running a very sophisticated project and to tell me that you don’t know where the budget numbers are, I personally don’t believe that,” Glass responded.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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