State officials did not say when the companies are expected to walk off the job, except that the packing-up process will continue into next week.
Carla Julian, spokeswoman for the construction contractor, Purple Line Transit Constructors, said the joint venture plans to release a departure schedule in the next couple of weeks.
Maryland transit officials said they are still trying to reach a settlement with Purple Line Transit Partners, the concessionaire managing the broader project, over what PLTP says are about $800 million in delay-related cost overruns.
However, the fact that PLTP’s construction contractor is packing up — a complex and massive process — signals that the chances of saving the project’s $5.6 billion, 36-year public-private partnership have grown increasingly bleak. State officials have said PLTP’s departure would add one to two years of delays to a project the concessionaire says is already more than 2½ years behind schedule.
Matthew Pollack, the state’s Purple Line project director, said the construction contractor probably will continue buttoning up construction sites “into next week.”
After they pack up, “they will, in essence, hand over the keys to their storage yards and all their protected fenced-in areas, and the project would then come under the state’s management,” Pollack said.
The state would then approach subcontractors to try to keep as much work moving as possible while the Maryland Transit Administration works out a longer-term plan for completing construction, he said.
Following the briefing, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation said the transition could be completed “as early as next week.”
Pollack did not say when construction stopped, though steel girders for a rail bridge were installed over Connecticut Avenue in north Chevy Chase last week.
MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn said the state will prioritize continuing construction in areas where businesses and residents are most affected.
“I give you my commitment and the state’s commitment that we will deliver this project,” Quinn said.
He later added, “We’re going to do our best to keep construction going.”
Quinn spent about a minute saying that the state “remains open to a fair and reasonable settlement” that would keep PLTP on the job. He and Pollack then spent most of the next hour discussing how the state plans to take over after PLTP leaves.
Jaclyn Hartman, chief financial officer for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the state would use money from its Transportation Trust Fund to keep some Purple Line construction going if PLTP leaves, until the state could issue bonds. That could mean additional cuts to funding for highways, airports, the port of Baltimore or state transit systems, she said. State officials previously had said only that money would be diverted from state transit systems, such as MARC commuter rail and Baltimore-area buses.
As their counterparts in Montgomery County did last week, Prince George’s council members voiced frustration over the eagerly anticipated rail project that has ripped up a large swath of the Washington suburbs. Several questioned why state officials hadn’t reached a settlement on the cost overruns and whether the Purple Line might end up costing more and taking longer to build, if PLTP quits.
Council member Dannielle M. Glaros (D-District 3) said residents are anxious to know when major construction will resume if PLTP leaves. She called PLTP’s potential departure “an absolute massive failure” of state government.
“Leaving abandoned, half-completed infrastructure for a year is just not going to work,” Glaros said.
Council member Deni Taveras (D-District 2) said businesses hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic will continue to struggle as Purple Line construction keeps customers away.
“I’ll estimate a year before you guys get it together,” Taveras told the MTA officials. “. . . We’re asking individuals to suffer for this period of time.”