Maryland Purple light rail line to cost an additional $ 1.4 billion to complete

The interior of one of Maryland’s Violet Line light rail vehicles. (Denko Imaging / Maryland Transit Administration)

BALTIMORE – Maryland’s Purple Light Rail Line would start carrying passengers through suburban Washington four years late and cost an additional $ 1.4 billion to build under a proposed contract to complete the project, said this week Maryland transportation officials. The cost to the state of a larger deal for a private concessionaire to build, operate and maintain the line for several decades would drop from $ 5.6 billion to $ 9.3 billion.

The Washington Post reported that if the Maryland Public Works Council approves the new construction contract and the broader financial deal on Jan. 26, a private concessionaire is expected to secure financing in February. Construction on Maryland’s largest transit project would then resume this spring, state officials said.

The Purple Line was one of the first mass transit projects in the United States to rely on private funding through a public-private partnership. Construction of the Purple Line began in mid-2017. It ended in October 2020, when the private consortium’s entrepreneur pulled out after a court battle and feud with the state over what the companies called a 2.5-year delay and overdue. approximately $ 850 million in cost overruns. The line was originally scheduled to start carrying passengers in March of this year.

Maryland Transit Administrator Holly Arnold told the Post that the original contractor’s claims did not reflect dramatic increases in pandemic-era construction costs, such as with materials and insurance. , or the severe effects of the pandemic on the labor pool and supply chain.

The Purple Line will be the first direct commuter-to-commuter rail line in the Washington area. It is designed to provide faster and more reliable public transport than buses and to attract economic development around its 21 stations. It will connect to the red, green and orange lines of the metro but, unlike the metro, single-vehicle trains will run primarily along local roads and a recreational trail.

Under the new construction contract, the whole line would open in one go, and not in two phases as previously planned. The additional $ 3.7 billion for the long-term financial deal would include additional construction costs, as well as a legal settlement of $ 250 million previously paid to the original contractor. The total amount of $ 9.3 billion would cover the operation and maintenance of the line for 30 years, the expenses of refurbishing the tracks and rail vehicles as they age, and the service payments of the railway. debt that would skyrocket as part of the financing of the more expensive construction. The dealer would also make a profit.

The new construction price of $ 3.4 billion represents an increase of almost 80% that includes about $ 1.1 billion of construction costs already paid. In addition to the pandemic-related expenses, the new contractor also factored in the additional financial risk of completing work started by other companies, the Post said.