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Maryland transit officials will decide in the next 30 days what work on the Purple Line can continue and what should be delayed if the companies building it stop, state officials told the county council on Tuesday. of Montgomery.

However, it will take the state four to six months to decide how it will complete the 16-mile light rail line through Montgomery and Prince George counties, said Kevin Quinn, head of the Maryland Transit Administration. The state plans to handle some short-term work and then look for a construction contractor or other long-term public.
private partnership, Quinn said.

“I’m not going to sit here and say there won’t be any obstacles along the way or commit that the state will be able to maintain the same level of activity” as the current entrepreneur, Quinn said. “But I can tell you that in the long run, we’re going to deliver this project to the state of Maryland, and we’re going to deliver it effectively.”

He added, “There are a number of good entrepreneurs in this market who want to take on this work.”

Quinn’s public comments were the first since Thursday, when a Baltimore judge dealt a blow to the state by ruling that the private concessionaire, Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), can quit if it chooses to do so in a dispute over $800 million in unpaid fees. overruns. PLTP said the additional expense stems from more than 2½ years of construction delays.

Judge: Purple line companies can quit due to prolonged delays

The contractor said construction sites could be packed and safely secured in two to four weeks. Work has continued since the judge’s decision.

Quinn did not say how much the various options would cost or how the state would pay for them, since the remaining $1 billion of construction was going to be funded by PLTP. Without a private partner, Quinn said previously, funding would have to be diverted from other public transit, such as the MARC commuter rail and Baltimore-area systems, to keep construction going until the State can align longer-term public funding.

Under the current 36-year partnership, valued at $5.6 billion, PLTP is to build the line over six years and help finance its construction before operating it for 30 years. The state planned to repay private debt, cover operating costs, and pay a profit to PLTP through annual installments.

The agreement is one of the first public-private partnerships for a transit project in the United States to rely on private financing.

Quinn said the state remains “open to a fair and reasonable settlement” and is continuing negotiations with PLTP over cost overruns. However, he said the state was also working to take over more than 100 contractors in the event of PLTP’s resignation.

Erin Henson, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the state is also willing to use mediation. She refused to elaborate.

John Undeland, a spokesman for Purple Line Transit Partners, said he was also open to mediation even as he worked on a possible transition plan.

“Leaving the project is the last thing we want to do,” Undeland said. However, he said, the concessionaire had “no choice but to pursue termination” after the state refused to provide “meaningful relief” for delays beyond its control.

Several council members have called on Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (right) to express his commitment to completing construction of the line rather than relying on his transit agency.

“The governor also needs to make clear statements about how he’s going to take ownership of this major issue and how we’re going to come out on the other side,” council member Nancy Navarro (D-District 4) said.

Board member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) expressed concern that the project has been in “limbo” for six months.

“We need the governor to step up and really assert strong leadership here,” Riemer said.

Hogan’s spokesman, Mike Ricci, said “there is no doubt” the Purple Line will create jobs, connect communities and improve the state’s infrastructure.

“The governor fully supports Secretary Slater’s efforts to complete the project and protect taxpayers while ensuring that we have a partner who also has the best interests of the people of Maryland in mind,” Ricci said in the statement. a statement, referencing Transportation Secretary Gregory I. Slater.

Project Purple Line delays and cost overruns reveal longstanding issues

Matthew Pollack, the state’s Purple Line project manager, said Maryland officials are meeting with the PLTP construction contractor daily about a transition plan. Even if PLTP and its construction contractor quit, he said, the subcontractors should be able to complete the design and continue to move utilities underground, build walls and fabricate the light vehicles on rail.

The Purple Line was due to start carrying passengers in March 2022, but PLTP said it won’t open until at least November 2024. PLTP says the delays stem from a lawsuit that stalled the start of construction of 11 months, the state being slow to provide the right of way, and recent changes in design requirements for a retaining wall and culverts.

Quinn told the board he couldn’t comment on the project’s legal filing. However, a spokeswoman for the Maryland attorney general’s office said after the briefing that it would continue. The state sued PLTP for breach of contract for attempting to terminate the agreement.

Whether PLTP properly terminates the contract for extended delays will determine the amount the State will have to pay PLTP to cover its demobilization costs and outstanding debt. A state Department of Transportation official said those costs could top $367 million.

Maryland will manage Purple Line construction if partnership fails, state says

Council members said businesses and residents were unhappy with the possibility of further delays after living with torn roads and sidewalks, as well as the closure of part of the popular Capital Crescent Trail for three years. Some have also expressed concerns about the loss of jobs for construction workers during the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

“We are all very frustrated today with the legal action and where the state is after so much energy and effort has gone into this project,” said council member Tom Hucker ( D-District 5), chairman of the panel’s transportation committee. Committee. “It’s like a real blow to be where we are.”

Councilman Andrew Friedson (D-District 1) said his constituents just wanted the line completed.

“I have yet to meet a resident who is very attached to who is building this,” Friedson told state officials. “The purple line must be built. . . . The current situation is unacceptable.