The project management consulting team for Maryland’s $2-billion Purple Line has been awarded an added $183.5 million to cover expanded project responsibilities while the state proceeds to select a new design-build contractor to complete the dispute-delayed light rail project through two suburban Washington, D.C., counties.
The contract modification, approved June 16 by Maryland’s three-member Board of Public Works, bolsters the budget for consultants AECOM, RK&K and WSP USA, which have overseen a much scaled-back construction effort since the original Fluor-led design-build group quit the half-finished project last summer in a dispute with the state over responsibility for approximately $800 million in cost overruns.
The state's private consortium partner had said a new design-build team would be selected in June from three teams shortlisted in March, followed by a gradual restoration to full construction activity by year end. No update was provided at the June 16 meeting on whether the selection will be this month later in the summer.
The consulting team was originally contracted by the Maryland Transit Authority in 2010 to provide project management and quality assurance services during the initial stages of the 16-mile light-rail transit project. Design and construction oversight responsibilities were added as the Purple Line evolved into a public-private partnership backed by approximately $900 million in federal funding. Construction began in 2017 with a target completion date of 2022.
MTA’s relationship with Fluor deteriorated as costs and delays mounted, however, resulting in a protracted legal dispute that ultimately led to the contractor’s departure. Last November, Maryland reached a $250-million settlement with Fluor, which also ceded its 15% interest in the P3 development consortium, Purple Line Transit Partners.
In the meantime, the project management team expanded its oversight role on behalf of MTA, managing about 150 contracts with contractors and suppliers to continue utility relocations and rolling-stock fabrication while the consortium evaluates potential design-build partners.
MTA’s request for added project management funding noted that the extra responsibilities had roughly doubled the team’s staff requirements, draining its existing budget allocation faster than expected. State Transportation secretary Gregory Slater also told the board that the additional funding covers work that ordinarily would have been performed by the design-build team, and will be separate from the new design-build cost.
While the project management team’s contract has been extended to June 30, 2027, a revised construction schedule for the Purple Line will not be announced until the new contractor is in place.
MTA has previously expressed hope that measures such as accelerated construction techniques will mitigate any further delays.
MTA also released images of Purple Line rail cars, with about 130 now being fabricated in Spain and assembled in Elmira, N.Y. A state project director, Vernon Hartsock, said the cars, at 140 ft, are “about the longest light rail vehicle” in North America.