Board of Public Works Approves Nearly $200 Million For Additional Purple Line Oversight

A construction crew recently poured concrete for the roof of the Purple Line's Plymouth Tunnel in Montgomery County's Long Branch neighborhood. Twitter photo from @PurpleLineMD.

The Maryland Department of Transportation continues to grapple with the abrupt departure of the Purple Line’s prime subcontractor last year.

On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works approved an agency request to add $183.5 million to a management contract for the partially-built project.

The request was approved unanimously.

Purple Line Transit Partners, the consortium building the line under a 36-year contract with the state, is in the process of finding a replacement for Purple Line Transit Constructors, which quit the project last fall amid a dispute over costs.

PLTP and MDOT are working jointly to find a replacement.

In the interim, the state agency has taken over day-to-day management of the dozens of contractors who are building the line, which will eventually run between New Carrollton and Bethesda.

In documentation supporting the request, agency officials said the costs associated with the unexpected need to assume temporary control drove their request for additional funds. The modification of the “program management consultant services” contract also adds four years to the original agreement.

“It’s work that PLTC would have done and would have paid for if they had still been on the project,” said Transportation Secretary Greg Slater. “We chose to take on 150 contracts ourselves and direct-manage it so that we can keep that construction moving.”

Slater stressed that the need for additional state funds is unrelated to the $250 million settlement the state reached with PLTC last fall, after the consortium won a court battle with the agency.

“It’s well worth the price that the state has to pay to get ahead of the transit infrastructure,” said Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D), a member of the contract-approving public works panel.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who chairs the board, said the state’s hard-line stance in rejecting what it considered to be over-billing by PLTC saved taxpayers money in the long run.

“Let me just remind you that our tough negotiations with this previous contractor saved the state $650 million,” he said. “And we knew we were going to be taking on some costs to save that money. It was great for us to be able to terminate that relationship.”

PLTP is in the process of vetting three potential bidders to take PLTC’s place, and they are researching the unfinished aspects of the project.

The potential replacements are Halmar International; Maryland Transit Solutions, a consortium of Dragados USA and OHL USA; and a joint venture between Tutor-Perini and Lunda.

PLTP hopes to select a new partner this summer and to have a contract to put before the Board of Public Works this fall.

“After reaching terms with the selected contractor, PLTP anticipates a rapid mobilization and full-scale construction to resume as quickly as possible,” the consortium wrote in a press release in March.

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.