A Maryland judge ruled Thursday that the companies managing the Purple Line’s construction may quit over disputes with the state about $800 million in unpaid cost overruns, requiring transportation officials to find a new way to complete and pay for the megaproject.
The ruling allows for the unraveling of the Purple Line’s 36-year public-private partnership, one of the first on a U.S. light-rail project. It also would upend a major transit project designed to remake the auto-centric D.C. suburbs and attract economic development around the line’s 21 stations.
The decision does not preclude the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) from trying to reach a settlement on the cost overruns to save the $5.6 billion partnership with Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), the concessionaire managing the construction. However, the court action followed more than three years of unsuccessful negotiations.
Maryland transit officials have said that the state will complete the light-rail line even if the companies leave but that doing so would add one to two years of further delays. The Purple Line, which would connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, was initially scheduled to begin carrying passengers in March 2022, but the contractor has said work is delayed by more than 2½ years.