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Congressman Brown Advocates for Completion of the Purple Line Project, Resolution of State Contracting Dispute

“I fear dissolving this partnership mid-project and leaving an enormous scar across our communities,”

Washington, July 29, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony Brown (MD-04), the only Maryland member serving on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, wrote Governor Larry Hogan requesting clarification on continued delays to the long awaited Purple Line project, less than 25 days before an August 22nd deadline to resolve current contract disputes. Inaction by the state may jeopardize the project.

The Purple Line project is a light rail system that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, providing a new, essential artery for Marylanders. The project would provide with a direct connection to the WMATA Metrorail Red, Green and Orange lines, as well as MARC, Amtrak, and local bus services. Disagreements between the state and Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC) now threatens the completion of the project.

“If there is no agreement. I fear dissolving this partnership mid-project and leaving an enormous scar across our communities,” wrote Congressman Brown. “The only acceptable path forward is to finish the Purple Line project. My hope is that the discussions between the State and PLTC are open, productive, and an agreement is reached as soon as possible.”

Full letter is included below.

July 27, 2020 

Dear Governor Hogan: 

As a member of the Maryland Congressional Delegation, I write to reiterate my support for the Purple Line project and ask for clarification on some of the issues that have delayed the completion of the project. The Purple Line project, a light rail system that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, will be an essential artery in our community. This innovative light rail project will provide our constituents with a direct connection to the WMATA Metrorail Red, Green and Orange lines, as well as MARC, Amtrak, and local bus services. 

It’s my understanding that the state and Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC) are working through four claims of delay, and unless an agreement on who will pay $755 million in cost overruns is reached with the state by August 22, 2020, both PLTC and the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) have said they will pull out of the project. Since PLTP, a public-private partnership, was founded in 2016 to build, operate, and maintain the project, there have been issues, including a looming environmental lawsuit filed by opponents to the project. In addition to the Record of Decision, there have been right of way claims, issues with getting permits from the Maryland Department of Environment, and structural modifications demanded by CSX railroad that were not anticipated when the original agreement was signed. 

Unfortunately, due to these disagreements, PLTC informed PLTP in May that they intend to leave the project, and PLTP filed a termination notice in June to dissolve the public-private partnership.  This starts the sixty-day clock for the PLTP to exit the project, if there is no agreement. I fear dissolving this partnership mid-project and leaving an enormous scar across our communities.  

With less than a month left to save this project, I respectfully ask that you respond to the following questions: 

  1. Has the State acknowledged any responsibility in the cost overruns or delays? Will a partial resolution of these issues allow the project to proceed?  

  2. What issues are being considered though the official dispute process? 

  3. Given the State picked the lowest cost option when partnering with PLTP, does the State feel they have the flexibility to absorb additional unexpected costs to deliver the project with minimal interruption?  

  4. If there is no resolution, what will the impact be on project delivery and communities where construction is ongoing? What steps will the State take to mitigate or continue construction? Can the state assume the role as general contractor? 

  5. If the outstanding issues force the public-private partnership to dissolve, what is the state's strategy to deliver the project? What is the additional time delay and costs associated with this?   

The only acceptable path forward is to finish the Purple Line project. My hope is that the discussions between the State and PLTC are open, productive, and an agreement is reached as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention on this important matter and I look forward to your response. 

Sincerely, 

Anthony G. Brown

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