Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater denied appeals for two of the four claims Purple Line contractors have made against the state regarding delays and cost overruns of the $2 billion light-rail project.
On Monday, Slater wrote in a letter to Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), the consortium in charge of the construction and operation of the light-rail project, that he issued final decisions on the two claims. Final decisions on the other two claims have not been issued yet.
PLTP has 30 days to appeal the decisions.
The roughly 16-mile Purple Line light-rail system is scheduled to have 21 stations stretching between Bethesda and New Carrollton.
The claims Slater rejected were about what properties should be acquired for the project and who bears the cost and risk for delays in the acquisition process, as well as time extensions and compensation for project delays. The other claims regard issues with receiving environmental permits from the Maryland Department of Environment, and structural modifications for a crash wall that CSX changed and was not in the original agreement.
Slater’s decisions follow disputes over extended project delays and cost overruns that resulted in Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC), which falls under PLTP, announcing in May that it would leave the project at the end of August if the problems weren’t resolved.
Since then, the Maryland Transit Administration and Purple Line contractors have been in negotiations over the claims and disputes, but have not reached an agreement.
On June 24, PLTC filed a notice to lay off more than 700 employees working on the project if there is no settlement by Aug. 22. Then on July 29, PLTP informed the state that it would begin terminating subcontracts on Aug. 4.
The Maryland Transit Administration filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Aug. 10 against Purple Line Transit Partners. Under a temporary restraining order in effect through Sept. 14, contractors cannot walk off the job.
Despite Slater’s decisions on half of the claims on Monday, the state is still negotiating with the consortium on its other claims, according to MTA’s acting director for the Purple Line project, Vernon Hartsock.
“Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to discuss the issues concerning the open court case that the project is involved [in], as well as the ongoing negotiations for settlement that are still taking place — that we’re all hopeful will have a positive resolution,” he said at a Purple Line NOW webinar on Thursday night. “The state is fully committed to the completion of the Purple Line project and this is a commitment regardless of what transpired between the [public-private partnership agreement], concessionaire, and MTA.”
In its lawsuit, MTA sought a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction restraining and enjoining PLTP from abandoning the project until it has established that an extended delay exists.
At the Purple Line NOW virtual forum on Thursday, Montgomery County Council Member Andrew Friedson said there have been some “hiccups” along the way for the project, but “bumpy rides lead to beautiful places.”
“I’m more convinced than ever that this project is desperately needed for the environmental, the economic, the east-west transportation connection that it’s going to create. … I can tell you that people don’t care who builds it,” he said. “I’ve never heard a resident tell me that they have strong opinions which engineering firm or which contractor is building a project and how it’s built. They want it built and they want it built without further delays.”
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at email@example.com.