The U.S. units of Spain-based global contractors Dragados and OHL were selected to take over construction of Maryland’s Purple Line, replacing the Fluor-led team that last fall departed the troubled $2.25 billion project in a dispute with state transportation officials over payments snd schedule delays.

Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), the private consortium managing the 16-mile, 21-station light rail system for the Maryland Dept. of Transportation under a 30-year construction, finance and operations concession, said the process of finalizing a design-build contract with the team and an amended P3 agreement is underway, according to a statement.

One of of three teams PLTP shortlisted last March to complete the Purple Line, Dragados-OHL was selected over the joint venture of Tutor-Perini and Lunda Construction. The third team, led by Halmar International, did not submit a proposal. 

The agreements, which must be approved by Maryland’s Board of Public Works, will also include an updated cost and schedule plan for the project,  which had been originally set to begin operating next year. It is estimated to be at least two years behind that date.

PLTP anticipates the reconstituted project plan to reach commercial and financial close in February, with full-scale construction expected to begin within a few months, it said. 

Concession chair Jane Garvey said the team offered it and the state "all the right qualities – thorough knowledge of the project, across-the-board expertise and a demonstrated spirit of partnership – to get the job done efficiently and with excellence.”

Dragados is currently building the $2.4-billion people moved at Los Angeles International Airport and three light rail projects in Canada with a combined value of $5.5 billion. OHL’s current U.S. projects include leading the $368-million South Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

As the nation’s first light-rail project to use private financing, the Purple Line began construction in 2017 with the goal of creating an east-west transit alternative across Washington D.C.’s northern suburbs in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Relations between the state and former lead contractor Fluor, an original equity partner in PLTP along with Meridiam and Star America, deteriorated as cost overruns and delays mounted, the result multiple project opponent lawsuits, permitting disputes and design revisions.

The acrimony culminated in September 2020, with Fluor withdrawing from the project in return for a $250-million settlement from the state. Fluor also gave up its interest in PLTP, although those terms were not announced.

Since then, the Maryland Transit Administration has overseen a scaled-back construction effort, including utility relocations and rolling stock fabrication.