Search narrows for new Purple Line builder after 1st one quit project

The long-promised Purple Line light rail in Maryland is still a work in progress after the general contractor quit the project last year, but the search for a new one is narrowing.

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Gregory Slater said Tuesday night that the choice of a new design-build firm has been whittled to three, and a final selection must wait until the fall.

“These three firms are right now putting together proposals, taking tours of the alignment, gathering more information, digging into the designs,” Slater told an online meeting of Purple Line NOW! — a sort of booster group for the light rail system that’s made up of business, labor, environmental and neighborhood interests.

In the meantime, the state is overseeing subcontractors, who are mostly relocating utility lines but also working on the Plymouth Tunnel in Silver Spring and the nearly complete Glenridge Operations and Maintenance building.

“We’ve been still doing plenty of work the last six months and you see that out there, while we’re waiting to select that new design build firm,” Slater said.

The 16-mile light rail from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County has been an idea circulating for decades. The state agreed to a public-private partnership in 2016; ground was broken in 2017; and the main contractor quit the project in September 2020 over what it said were $800 million in cost overruns.

Slater said progress is being made relocating utilities in the Silver Spring and Long Branch areas. Among the areas where utility relocation projects for the Purple Line are underway include Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale Road and on the University of Maryland campus.

Work is continuing on the track bed and the walls of the Plymouth Tunnel in Silver Spring.
Slater told the group the Glenridge operations and maintenance center will be a key component of testing the rail cars when they are delivered.

Slater also told the meeting that the project is having to pay storage costs for completed rail cars at the manufacturer’s plant in Elmira, New York, because the project was unable to accept delivery of the cars at the contracted time. He did not say how much was the storage costs.

“We are going to finish this project and we are going to ride on the Purple Line. There is nothing in doubt about that,” Slater said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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