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BPW to consider Purple Line contract extension, additional costs

Construction continues at more than 60 sites along the Purple Line, including this future station in Silver Spring. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

A transit line connecting Prince George’s and Montgomery counties faces more delays and cost overruns.

The Maryland Transit Administration Friday announced it has asked the Board of Public Works to approve an extension of a contract with Purple Line Transit Partners. The delay would push the opening back to the spring of 2027 and add more than $148.3 million to the growing price tag.

“This schedule change reflects the ongoing challenges and complexities of completing construction in a dense urban environment, the ongoing national workforce and supply chain issues, delays in completion of utility relocation activities, and the unique history of the Purple Line Light Rail Project,” Ray Biggs II, project manager for the transit line, wrote in a statement released Friday. “The project’s history includes two highly uncommon events: the set aside, and later reinstatement, of a key federal government environmental approval in 2016 and the replacement of the design-build contractor in 2022. The new design-build contractor faced unexpected conditions as some construction sites that sat dormant for nearly two years were reopened.”

The 16.2 mile east-west line connects the New Carrollton Metro Station in Prince George’s County to the Bethesda Metro Station in Montgomery County and includes 21 stations.

Approved in 2016, the project was expected to cost nearly $5.6 billion. It was scheduled to open in 2022.

Since then, the project has experienced a number of delays related to lawsuits, a dispute with a concessionaire, a pandemic and other issues.

Over time, the costs of the project have increased to more than $9.4 billion over the more than three-decade contract period. That new figure includes payments in the extension headed to the three-member Board of Public Works next week.

“This compensation amount reflects the additional cost of continuing construction activities during the extended period,” Biggs said in the statement.

Biggs said work progresses on the project now estimated to be “more than 50% complete and construction is actively advancing along the entire alignment from New Carrollton to Bethesda at 60 active construction sites with more than 700 workers. A significant amount of current construction activity includes utility relocation work and replacement and upgrading of storm drain systems that are critical to the project but does not create the same visual impact as a station construction might.”

Biggs said his agency and Purple Line Transit Partners will meet weekly to review progress and reduce additional delays.

“Mitigation strategies may include scheduling construction work concurrent with utility relocation, resequencing work activities, extending work hours, adding additional crews, revising maintenance of traffic plans, and ordering materials in advance to ensure timely delivery,” said Biggs.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct the number of people currently working on the Purple Line project.


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BPW to consider Purple Line contract extension, additional costs