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Maryland takes over contracts on Purple Line construction after contractor quits

Purple Line workers in Silver Spring pack up construction sites Oct. 5 in preparation for leaving. A large crane and other construction equipment was dismantled and removed from the site between Wayne Avenue and Plymouth Street, where a rail tunnel is being built. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The Maryland Transit Administration has taken over hundreds of subcontracts to continue the Purple Line’s construction since the contractor quit over a reported $800 million in unpaid cost overruns, state officials said Friday.

The project’s contractor finished securing construction sites and began turning over the project to the state Friday, said a spokesman for Purple Line Transit Partners, the consortium of companies managing the project under a 36-year public-private partnership.

It is PLTP’s construction contractor, a joint venture led by Texas-based Fluor, that quit over the cost overruns. Maryland officials said they are continuing to negotiate with PLTP over whether the project’s larger $5.6 billion partnership can be saved.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater said the state “officially took over the day-to-day management” of the 16-mile light-rail project through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties Sept. 28. Matthew Pollack, the state’s Purple Line project director, met with subcontractors Sept. 30 “to outline the next steps,” said Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Purple Line contractor says it will be ready to leave by mid-October

Henson said it then took time to figure out what work could continue. Most new construction stopped in mid-September, after a Baltimore judge ruled that the contractor had a legal right to quit.

The contracts that the state has assumed include the manufacturing of the light-rail vehicles, the eventual operations and maintenance of the rail line, and 233 design and construction contracts and other agreements.

Under state management, work over the next 30 days will continue on erosion and sediment control, relocating overhead electrical wires and underground utilities, and some final design work, Henson said.

“While the state is committed to ongoing negotiations, we have to continue to deliver the Purple Line for the citizens of Maryland and protect the state’s interest, which includes ensuring construction continues,” Slater said in a statement.

Maryland transit officials have said they will decide in the next four to six months whether they will continue managing the project, seek a new construction contractor or procure another public-private partnership if the agreement with PLTP dissolves.