The 16-mile line’s new opening date and cost to complete will become known when the new contractor is chosen by the end of the year, MDOT officials said in a recent submission to the state’s Board of Public Works. The previous contractor had said work was at least 2½ years behind schedule when it quit.
Veronica Battisti, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transit Administration, said the agency and private team managing the project expect to have a new contractor selected in December and a new construction contract finalized by Feb. 17. Experts say it can take several months after a contract is signed to get heavy equipment and crews in place to resume full construction on such a large, complex project.
A new construction contract previously had been scheduled to be finalized this month. Battisti said construction teams bidding on the project asked for more time to submit proposals.
“Providing the contractors a little more time would deliver more value to the state in the bids,” Battisti said in an email.
The board, which approves major state contracts, must sign off on a timing change because it would modify a $250 million Purple Line legal settlement approved in December.
The previous contractor, a team of companies led by Texas-based Fluor, quit last September over what it said were more than $755 million in delay-related cost overruns that the state had refused to pay.
The Purple Line’s delays and related problems have drawn national attention because it was one of the first U.S. transit projects to rely on private financing. Under a 36-year public-private partnership, a consortium called Purple Line Transit Partners is building the line and helping to finance its construction before it operates it for 30 years in exchange for monthly “availability payments” from the state.
A spokesman for Purple Line Transit Partners referred questions to MDOT.
In documents submitted to the Board of Public Works, MDOT said it also would like to pay the private consortium an unspecified amount “to facilitate the restructuring of the project financing” that would occur after the new contractor is selected. That money would not be an additional cost, MDOT said, because it would pay for completed work now, rather than via the future payments. Doing so, Battisti said, would reduce the financing costs associated with the project’s risks.
The Board of Public Works is scheduled to consider MDOT’s request at its Sept. 15 meeting.
MDOT has been keeping some work going over the past year, including moving utility lines and manufacturing light-rail vehicles and some of the system’s electrical components.