Monday, June 05, 2017

Maryland takes steps to slow Purple Line progress

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Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete K. Rahn has ordered a suspension of new contracts, hiring and non-essential procurements for the Purple Line project citing recent litigation.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a ruling in late May that requires the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the state of Maryland conduct an environmental study before the planned Purple Line project can proceed.

Secretary Rahn said that litigation had "caused extensive and expensive delays in the $5.6-billion Purple Line project," but noted the orders he issued provide the project with a path forward.

Secretary Rahn has warned that significant changes to the project would occur unless the court acted on or about June 1. The Office of the Maryland Attorney General has filed a notice of appeal regarding Leon's ruling to order further study of the project's contested ridership estimates, but the timeline for an appeal is not defined.

"With a legal path forward, MDOT's and the Purple Line's situation has changed from the unknown circumstances of just two weeks ago," said Secretary Rahn. "With an unknown timeline for an appeal and dwindling available cash to carry the federal reimbursable costs being expended by MDOT; and to protect the taxpayers of Maryland, I am ordering that action be taken immediately."

Secretary Rahn ordered the following steps:

  • The contractor, Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP), is directed to suspend the execution of new construction contracts; and
  • PLTP is directed to suspend all procurements for non-essential materials and equipment; and
  • PLTP is directed to freeze all hiring of construction staff; and
  • MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is directed to suspend all hiring of Purple Line oversight staff; and
  • MDOT MTA is directed to suspend state funding of county design reviews; and
  • MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and MDOT MTA are directed to pull from the Board of Public Works any requests for the purchase of right-of-way for the Purple Line project.
  • All parties are directed to limit the obligation of further costs for the Purple Line project to those of agreed necessity.

Secretary Rahn says further steps should be anticipated, as more information is available.