State has taken over some Purple Line contracts

State has taken over some Purple Line contracts

MDOT, MTA will assume work on manufacturing light rail cars, design, maintenance contracts

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Maryland transportation officials have taken over some contracts for the light rail Purple Line, with work scheduled to resume this week.

The Purple Line, a 16-mile, 21-station light-rail line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton, has been plagued by cost overruns, delays and lawsuits throughout the construction process.

In an email to Bethesda Beat on Monday, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) spokeswoman Erin Henson wrote that the MDOT and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) have assumed the Purple Line’s “key contracts” and “hundreds of subcontracts.” Those include:

  • Manufacturing light-rail cars
  • The operations and maintenance contract
  • 233 design and construction contracts, along with related subcontracts and purchase orders
  • Six commercial leases and licenses

The takeover of the contracts stems from a longstanding dispute the state has been in with Purple Line Transit Partners, which was contracted to manage and operate the project.

In May, Purple Line Transit Constructors, the design-build contractors, notified PLTP that it would leave the job because of the project days and cost overruns. Later in the summer, PLTC told the state it would lay off more than 700 workers if it couldn’t reach a settlement with MTA.

In August, the MTA filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court, and a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep the workers on the job through Sept. 14. The state had sought an injunction to keep PLTP from leaving the job, but on Sept. 10, Judge Jeffrey Geller denied the state’s request, allowing the workers to leave the job.

PLTP filed a countersuit on Sept. 15, claiming the state breached its contract and caused cost overruns and project delays.

Construction on the Purple Line stopped in late September. MTA spokeswoman Erin Henson told Bethesda Beat in an interview on Monday that the state took over day-to-day management of the project on Sept. 28.

Henson wrote that Purple Line Executive Director Matthew Pollack held a meeting with the assumed subcontractors on Sept. 30 to discuss next steps. In the next 30 days, MTA and the subcontractors will work on:

  • Traffic maintenance and sediment control
  • Relocating above-ground and underground utilities
  • Installing utility supply at the Glenridge Operations and Maintenance Facility
  • Manufacturing light-rail rolling stock and other infrastructure off-site
  • Completing final construction designs for stormwater management and “intelligent transportation systems”

The Purple Line was originally scheduled to be completed in 2022, but some estimates have pushed the date of completion back as much as two years. Asked on Monday what the estimated date of completion was, Henson said she didn’t know.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater wrote in a statement that the state is “committed to ongoing negotiations” with PLTP to ensure construction continues.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with all members of the community as we advance this project. The Purple Line leadership team will be listening and communicating with all stakeholders every step of the way,” he wrote.

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

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