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Transportation

With $3.4 Billion Construction Contract, Purple Line Moves Forward

Construction continued in April near unfinished Purple Line rail tracks at the Paul Sarbanes Transit Center in Silver Spring. Getty Images photo by Drew Angerer.

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $3.4 billion contract Wednesday that will allow full-scale construction to resume on the Purple Line this spring.

The 16.2-mile, 21-station light rail system that will run between New Carrollton and Bethesda is now expected to open to riders in fall 2026.

The Maryland Department of Transportation announced earlier this month that it had selected Maryland Transit Solutions to complete the project.

With approval from the Board of Public Works, the full cost of the broader public-private partnership agreement to build and operate the line is now $9.3 billion. The original P3 agreement inked in 2016 had an estimated cost of $5.6 billion.

The light rail system was originally expected to open to riders this year, but a lawsuit filed by project opponents in 2016 temporarily halted progress. More recently, the major construction contractor quit the project in 2020.

“It was these anti-transit activist folks that brought a frivolous lawsuit that tied us up for years and years, which is primarily the reason for all the delays and all the cost overruns,” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who chairs the Board of Public Works, said Wednesday.

The contract to hire Maryland Transit Solutions, a subsidiary of Dragados USA Inc. and OHL USA Inc., passed the Board of Public Works, which also includes Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and Treasurer Derek E. Davis (D), unanimously.

“It’s a project that we all see as essential and very important,” Franchot said.

The suburb-to-suburb line, which will connect three Metro lines while bringing transit to lower-income and diverse communities, has been a dream of planners and transit advocates for decades.

“The project benefits that made this a great project years ago when you first approved the public-private partnership agreement continue to make this a great project today,” Holly Arnold, administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration, said Wednesday.

Under the new contract, the state will continue to undertake smaller projects along the Purple Line path until Maryland Transit Solutions resumes full-scale construction in the spring.

The light rail cars, which are being built in New York, are expected to be delivered to Prince George’s County next fall.

By the summer of 2024, the state expects to finish a stretch of test track between New Carrolton and Beacon Heights, with full systemwide testing beginning in winter 2025.

The transit line is expected to open to the public in fall 2026, Arnold said.

In response to a question from Franchot, Arnold said it was too soon to estimate what fares will be for the light rail line, but fares wouldn’t be influenced by the increased costs of the project. When it comes time to set fares, they will be in line with nearby transit systems, Arnold said.