The Maryland Transit Administration has taken over hundreds of contracts for the Purple Line light rail construction, following a months-long battle with the private-partner consortium working on the $5.6 billion project.
State officials announced the news Friday, according to the Washington Post, potentially upending one of the largest public-private partnerships in the country.
The takeover comes after contractors with Purple Line Transit Partners LLC, the consortium of private companies that partnered with the state to develop the line, quit construction over cost disputes with the state — squabbles that had persisted for years. Under the public-private partnership, the state owns the project, but the contractors under PLTP oversaw the build-out of the light-rail, which would connect New Carrolton to Bethesda.
In September, a judge ruled that the contractors could quit amid cost overruns and construction delays, and required them to stay on the job until Sept. 14. On Sept. 23, many crews began packing up.
The disruption now leaves roads torn up and bridges half-built across Montgomery and Prince George’s County. The state and subcontractors will work together to continue working on the corridors in the county over the next 30 days, according to Maryland Department of Transportation spokesperson.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater wrote in a statement provided to DCist that the state will now oversee the “day-to-day” management of the light rail (including manufacturing, maintenance, and 233 design and construction agreements), but the move will likely delay final completion — which was originally slated for March 2022 — by years.
In mid-September, following the judge’s ruling, state transportation officials met with Montgomery County councilmembers to assure them that the rail would be completed regardless of the state’s partnership with PLTP. Local leaders have long expressed frustration over the series of delays for the Purple Line, which they believe to be crucial to the county’s financial health.
The details of the public-private partnership’s future have yet to be ironed out, as state officials say they are still negotiating the agreement. They have the option to settle the nearly $800 million in cost disputes with PLTP, although that possibility is growing increasingly unlikely. If the contract is severed completely, the state would need to decide whether to fully assume the project, or find a new company to secure a private-partnership agreement.