The opening of the long-awaited Purple Line has been delayed yet again and is expected to open in spring 2027, state officials announced Friday. Originally slated to cost $5.6 billion, the half-done project will now cost an additional $148 million, bringing the total price tag to $9.4 billion.
Maryland’s Department of Transportation, Maryland Transit Administration and Purple Line Transit Partners will seek approval on Wednesday from the Board of Public Works for an extension of the contract deadline in the Purple Line Public-Private-Partnership agreement.
Originally scheduled to open in 2022, the 16.2-mile light-rail connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties has faced several hurdles throughout its construction. In 2016 a federal judge suspended an environmental approval that was later resolved by a lawsuit in the Purple Line’s favor. By then, construction was 11 months behind. Then in 2020 the design-build contractor dropped out of the project. For two years, Purple Line construction sites sat dormant until a new contactor was hired in 2022.
The delay stems from issues in relocating utilities, the complexities of construction in a dense urban environment and national workforce and supply chain issues, according to a Maryland Department of Transportation press release.
“Updating the schedule to reflect the challenges we are facing on the project is an important step in accountability and delivering a project that the region can be proud of,” Maryland Transit Administrator Holly Arnold said in the release. “We are thankful to our partners and the community for their support and patience as we work to complete the Purple Line.”
Due to the project’s extension, the MTA will pay $148 million to the Purple Line Projects, reflecting the additional cost of continuing construction activities through spring 2027.
“Together with the Maryland Transit Administration and our design-build contractor, Maryland Transit Solutions, we’re doing everything in our power to identify innovative solutions to fast-track progress,” said Purple Line Transit Partners Chief Executive Officer Doran Bosso.
Strategies to reduce the risk of further delays include scheduling construction concurrently, extending work hours, adding additional crews, revising traffic plans, ordering materials in advance and resequencing work activities, the press release said.
“We are also focused on improving collaboration with stakeholders and third parties to maximize the ability to advance the rate of construction,” Ray Biggs, II, Purple Line project director, said in the release. “For example, this summer, the University of Maryland, College Park, agreed to a closure of Campus Drive and Union Lane to help expedite construction on campus by enabling the contractor to complete construction quicker than if they were working around vehicular traffic.”
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich wrote in a statement Friday evening that the delay was “not good news,” but also not surprising to him.
“This public private partnership deal has been a ‘poster child’ for how not to do a major transportation project,” Elrich wrote. “From the beginning of this process, I have been clear about the perils of engaging in a poorly conceived and constructed public private partnership on the Purple Line. Taxpayers and transit riders will continue to pay for the mismanagement of the Hogan Administration. We deserved better.”
Maryland state delegate and chair of the Environment and Transportation Committee Marc Korman (D-Dist. 16), wrote in an email to MoCo360 Friday it has been long known that the contractor thought the project would run into 2027 but said “it is good to at least see agreement with the state on that.”
Korman said he was not aware of any other looming issues with the project.
“A good deal of the additional cost, unfortunately, appears to be a result of the state not doing what it said it would between construction contractors under the prior Administration,” he said, referring to the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan. “So hopefully we can move past the hangover from those years and continue to advance this transit connection.”
Once complete, the Purple Line will have 21 stations and offer east to west transit for jobs, school, shopping and recreation. It will also provide connections to the Metrorail, three MARC commuter rail lines, Amtrak and bus services.
Transportation officials in their release noted that the project is more than 50% complete and construction is actively progressing from New Carrollton to Bethesda, with 60 active construction sites employing approximately 700 workers.