Latest problem for Maryland’s Purple Line: The builders want out

Yet another setback Friday for Maryland’s long-delayed Purple Line project.

The companies that are building the 16.2-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton announced that they are leaving the project, which is a public-private partnership.

The companies are known as the Purple Line Transit Constructors, or PLTC.

“Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside of PLTC’s control, there were multiple delays on the project and PLTC was unable to obtain the time and cost relief to which it is entitled from [the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration],” said PLTC project director Scott Risly in a statement.

“Regretfully, PLTC simply cannot complete the project under these circumstances,”

Delays have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the rail line’s cost.

PLTC is using an exit clause in its design-build agreement that says they can leave if the project is delayed by a year. It plans an “efficient and orderly transition” away from the project that is expected to take two to three months.

In its own statement, the MDOT MTA said litigation has delayed the project since construction started in 2016 and discussions continue.

“While MDOT MTA cannot comment further until a settlement agreement is reached, we remain committed to continuing negotiations and focused on getting this key transit project completed and operational for the taxpayers of Maryland,” the statement said.

A Montgomery County Council member reacted to the news.

“This is very frustrating for those of us who have been Purple Line supporters for years,” said Council member Evan Glass, who sits on the council’s Transportation and Environment Committee.

“During oversight hearings this past year, I’ve consistently raised my concern with the added delays and $300 million in projected cost overruns. My hope is that this transition will not add to an already lengthy construction schedule, but will provide a true accounting of the state of this project and its costs. Now is the time for the state to fully inform the public about the status and cost of this project.”

At last check, rail service on the Purple Line was not expected to start until 2022 at the earliest.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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