- The new contractor and cost to finish the much-delayed, $5.6 billion Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. will likely be decided by December, Maryland DOT documents indicate. The 16.2-mile line will run through Prince George's and Montgomery counties and connect to the Washington, D.C., metro system.
- Maryland transit officials hope to have "commercial and financial close" prior to Feb. 17, according to the MDOT documents submitted to the Maryland Department of Public Works.
- With the new timeline, the chosen contractor likely won't begin work until spring 2022 because bringing equipment and crews into place can take a few months, said Veronica Battisti, senior director of communications and marketing with MDOT in an email. "The new contractor will need to put in place a management and administration team, establish and schedule field crews and mobilize significant heavy machinery before construction can begin," she said.
The project has attracted national attention as it is one of the first of its kind to rely on private funding. Unfortunately the line has been plagued with delays and lawsuits, and the initial contractor quit the public-private partnership (P3) last September following disputes with the state over who should pay for the nearly $800 million in cost overruns.
This spring, MDOT announced three design-build finalists that might finish the work. They are:
- Halmar International.
- Maryland Transit Solutions (comprised of Dragados USA and OHL USA).
The chosen team will finish construction and then operate the line for 30 years under the Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Maintain delivery model, in theory recouping its investment by charging the state monthly "availability" fees.
In March, concessionaire Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) issued an RFP to the three short-listed firms. The contract was first scheduled to be finalized this month, but was pushed back five months to allow "additional time for bidders to complete due diligence activities on the project and for the negotiation of final commercial and financial terms," according to the MDOT documents.
The Maryland Board of Public Works signed off on the timing change on Sept. 15. Its approval was necessary because the change modifies the state's $250 million legal settlement approved in December.
"The Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration are committed to resuming full-scale construction on the Purple Line project," Battisti said. "The Maryland Board of Public Works' agenda item for amendments to the Purple Line P3 agreement and settlement agreement is another positive step forward in this process."
A long road to a new line
The Purple Line has been under construction since 2017, and was first slated to start carrying passengers by March 2022. The first contractor — a joint venture composed of Fluor, Lane Construction and Traylor Bros under PLTP — said the project was about two and a half years behind schedule at the time it left, and its departure could add another year or more to the timeline.
BPW also approved payment up to $375 million from MDOT to PLTP for work already completed by the old design-build contractor. The agency says this will not contribute to the cost of the project, but rather will pay down this debt now rather than in the future, and thus reduce project risk and associated financing costs.
For now, the state has taken over day-to-day operations of the project's construction sites and has continued to work on the project, including relocating overhead electrical lines and underground utilities and manufacturing light rail vehicles and other project components, according to the MDOT documents.