Winter 2027 Set as New Target for Purple Line Debut, Confirm Transportation Officials

The Maryland Transit Administration recently announced plans to seek approval for up to $425 million in payments related to delays in the Purple Line project, pushing back the light rail line’s opening to winter 2027.

The 16.2-mile Purple Line will connect the New Carrollton Metro station in Prince George’s County with the Bethesda Metro station in Montgomery County, encompassing 21 stops, including the Silver Spring Transit Center in downtown Silver Spring.

Maryland transportation officials said Friday that challenges in the dense, urban construction environment, combined with heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic, have posed ongoing obstacles for the project. Despite collaborative efforts to mitigate delays by rescheduling work and extending hours, the remaining project schedule has been impacted.

“The MTA team has been working incredibly hard and over the past year,” Holly Arnold, administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration, said to Maryland Matters on Friday. “We did complete the utility work. So, October the utility work was completed. December the operations and maintenance facility work was complete. We’re now out of that part of the construction business and so it really is now on the concessionaire and the design builder. But as part of that, we did need to kind of do a final change order to close out that chapter of the project. And so that’s what this is doing now.”

In response to the delays, the Maryland Transit Administration will compensate Purple Line Transit Partners, the private-sector partner of the project, up to $425 million over five years, tied to achieving specific project milestones.

Significant progress has been made, with over 65% of the project completed, including active construction at 13 stations and the laying of nearly 17,000 linear feet of track at various locations (video below), as well as the imminent receipt of the first light rail vehicle at the Operations and Maintenance Facility in Glenridge this spring.

“The Purple Line team is working with Purple Line Transit Partners to advance construction as quickly as possible and will continue to work to minimize the impacts of construction on residents and businesses,” said Purple Line senior project director Ray Biggs, II.

In February, Purple Line Transit Partners announced the inaugural round of Beyond The Rails community grants, aiming to bolster community projects in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The recipients of the grants include the following projects:

PLTP will present 12 grants annually, with six organizations chosen every six months starting from the initial round announced last month. Community organizations are urged by PLTP to submit applications, regardless of prior applications or selection outcomes, by completing a concise two-page application. Applications are presently under continuous review.

The Beyond the Rails grants, according to PLTP, vary from $1,000 to $3,000 and are accessible to community-centric groups in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Successful candidates will benefit organizations or neighborhoods, offer advantages to a community near the Purple Line corridor, and center on the categories of Community and Environment.

The Community category bolsters the overall well-being of neighboring communities, encompassing safety, health, recreation, and education; the Environment category aims to enrich or safeguard the natural surroundings.

Meanwhile, construction of the Purple Line has faced significant challenges, including delays and cost overruns. Initially set to open last year, the project encountered a setback in 2016 when a federal judge paused its environmental approval. After a lawsuit in favor of the Purple Line, reported by MoCo360, construction fell behind by 11 months. Compounding these issues, the design-build contractor withdrew from the project in 2020.

Following the contractor’s exit, Purple Line construction sites remained inactive for two years until a new contractor took over in 2022. According to Maryland Department of Transportation officials, delays arose due to difficulties in relocating utilities, the intricacies of construction in a densely populated urban area, and national challenges with workforce and supply chains.

To address the delays and associated cost overruns, the Board of Public Works approved an extra $148 million in payments to Purple Line Transit Partners last summer. The panel, comprising Comptroller Brooke Lierman and Treasurer Dereck Davis, among others, unanimously voted for the contract modification. Governor Wes Moore affirmed a commitment to advancing the project while controlling additional expenses effectively.

“This is important because it checks off a whole collection of boxes,” Gov. Moore said last July. “And so our administration will complete this project. But we will complete it in a fiscally responsible manner. While we’re also ensuring that we’re being fair and transparent with our project partners. And we will hold ourselves and our partners accountable for completing this project with a focus on transparency.”

Maryland Matters reported Friday that the additional funding sought will raise the project’s total cost to approximately $4 billion, with a total cost of $10 billion over the project’s 36-year life span, including financing.

Photo Courtesy of The Purple Line Project

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