A new project study has found that the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Purple Line light rail project in suburban Washington, DC, - currently four-and-a-half years behind schedule - faces a further seven-month delay that could set back the opening of the light-rail line until mid-2027.

The Purple Line project was expected to be off to a fresh start under a new construction contract that added $US 1.46bn in expenditures when the most recent delays, related to moving utility lines, occurred.

The state of Maryland took over hundreds of contracts relating to the project in October 2020 after Fluor, the managing partner of the Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC) design-build team, announced it was walking away from the project.

A new design-build team, Maryland Transit Solutions, was approved in February 2022 under a new $US 3.4bn contract and began reviving abandoned work sites in August. Under the new contract agreed by MDOT, Fluor was replaced by Maryland Transit Solutions, comprising Dragados USA and OHL USA, while equity partners Meridiam and Star America remain involved in the project.

According to project records, when the new contractor arrived in April, the state-managed operation to relocate utility lines was already behind schedule.

Officials had planned for the rail line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to start carrying passengers in late 2026.

State officials said in a statement that the “contractual deadline” for the line’s launch date has not changed and that they are still evaluating the delays mentioned in investor reports. According to the statement, the state is looking into measures to speed up work and “achieve greater efficiency,” such as revising plans for roadway construction zones, enhancing coordination amongst utilities, and executing more work concurrently.

“Building a complex transportation project through a 25.7km  corridor of vibrant and active communities is never going to be an easy task,” says Mr David Abrams, MDOT’s Purple Line spokesman. “The Purple Line team is committed to developing and implementing solutions to address the challenges inherent on a project of this size, scope and magnitude.”

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