This story was updated at 11:09 a.m. on Sept. 23, 2020, to include additional details and a comment from a MDOT spokeswoman.
Construction on the 16-mile Purple Line has stopped as the state and the consortium in charge of the project is working on having the state take over.
Matt Pollack, the Purple Line project director for the Maryland Transit Administration, told the Prince George’s County Council on Tuesday that construction the design-build contractors Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC) has halted construction. He did not say when that happened.
“The sites have not been turned over to us yet because the work that they’re doing in the field is creating the safe, protective work sites,” Pollack said. “So they’re not doing construction that moves the work forward. They’re putting in the protections at this time.
“Once they have completed that work, which will probably go until next week, then they will in essence hand over the keys to their storage yards and all of their protected fenced-in areas, and the project would then come under the state’s management.”
Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), which was contracted to manage and operate the project, and MTA are having daily discussions on the transition, he said.
The project transition follows disputes involving cost overruns and delays over the light rail line that is planned to stretch from Bethesda to New Carrollton with 21 stations.
MTA filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court in August and a temporary restraining order was granted to keep the workers on the job through Sept 14. But on Sept. 10, a judge allowed the restraining order to expire immediately and denied the state’s request for preliminary injunction.
On Sept. 15, PLTP filed a countersuit and claimed the state breached its contract with the consortium and caused cost overruns and delays. The state also directed the group to “mask dates” related to project delays that are required to be included in schedule updates, according to the lawsuit.
PLTP is seeking more than $100 million in its lawsuit. The state, in its suit, is seeking $75 million in damages from PLTP.
The state expects to have more information in about 30 days on what specific delays the transition will cause. A decision on who will take over the construction — the state or another contractor — will be made within the next four to six months.
Pollack also updated the Montgomery County Council on the project on Sept. 15 but did not mention that construction had stopped.
Asked whether the state would consider another public-private partnership for the project, Pollack told the Prince George’s County Council the state doesn’t know what it’s going to do yet, but “that is absolutely on the table.”
John Undeland, a spokesman for PLTP, told Bethesda Beat in an email Wednesday morning that the group expects to finish the transition within the next two weeks.
“While still believing that a settlement is in all parties’ best interests, we are coordinating with the state to turn the project over in a safe and secure manner within the next two weeks,” he said.
Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, told Bethesda Beat in an email Wednesday morning that the state is focused on ensuring things progress “while we finalize each path for re-solicitation.”
“It is expected that the state could take on the day-to-day management of the construction as early as next week,” she said.
A spokeswoman for PLTC could not be reached Wednesday morning.
Prince George’s County Council Member Dannielle Glaros said she wasn’t sure if the project was going backward or forward.
“It’s really tough for our residents who so need the benefits and they’re going to be left with this empty infrastructure that looks completely abandoned for a timeframe that is not clear at this moment in time,” she said. “None of you right now can tell me: this project will start seeing construction at ‘X’ date. I think that is a real thing that you need to push forward and figure out because leaving abandoned, [half-completed] infrastructure for a year is just not going to work.”
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.