Maryland transportation officials have granted the contractor building the Purple Line a 160-day delay in the light-rail line’s opening but will not compensate it for related costs, according to a letter by a state contracting officer.
Under that timetable, the 16-mile rail line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties would begin carrying passengers Aug. 18, 2022. The opening date in the project’s contract has been March 11, 2022.
However, disagreements over when the line will begin carrying passengers — and who will pay how much to offset holdups and accelerate construction — will continue.
The contractor, a consortium of companies known as Purple Line Transit Partners, has rejected the 160-day delay. The companies say problems obtaining approvals from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at stopping the project held up work by 266 days and added nearly $200 million in costs.
In a June 28 letter, Anita Rodgers, a contracting officer for the Maryland Transit Administration, said Purple Line Transit Partners is not due more time or compensation because it was responsible for some of the delays. Those included late submissions for state environmental permits and approvals from local utilities to move water and power lines, Rodgers wrote. The contractor also didn’t file its claim concerning the WSSC in time, according to the letter.
The Maryland Transit Administration declined to make anyone available for an interview. In an email Thursday, spokeswoman Veronica Battisti said the agency has been “actively engaged in discussions” with the contractor to try to mitigate the lawsuit’s effect on the project’s schedule and cost.
She said that the contracting officer’s initial decision is “one step” in the claims process and that the agency wouldn’t comment further until it had reached a settlement.
Purple Line Transit Partners has appealed the decision to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn, a move required by the contract before the companies could pursue a claim in court.
Peter van der Waart, chief executive of Purple Line Transit Partners, said through a spokesman that the back-and-forth is part of a process required by the contract to try to resolve disputes between the contractor and the state.
“We’ve been exploring a fair and equitable resolution to all cost and scheduling issues,” van der Waart said.
The contractor has continued to state in monthly reports that delays, in addition to those caused by the lawsuit, will prevent the line from opening until March 2023 — seven months behind the state’s new August 2022 date — and then only if the state pays an additional $300 million.
The ongoing dispute between the two sides has drawn attention because the project is being financed and built — and ultimately will be operated — as part of a 36-year, $5.6 billion public-private partnership. The arrangement is one of the broadest of its kind for any U.S. transit project. The line’s construction comprises about $2 billion of the contract.