Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that Purple Line Transit Partners has filed a notice of termination if it cannot reach an agreement with the State over massive cost overruns within 60 days. Currently, there are $755 million in cost overruns on the $2 billion project. The State and the P3 consortium disagree over who should pay them.
An anonymous source tells Seventh State that Fluor, a major partner in the deal, has pulled out. Del. Marc Korman told Seventh State that:
What I have heard is talks with Fluor are ongoing but if those collapse, the consortium will walk because Fluor is a large minority party. Not to say I’m optimistic about construction negotiations.
On Twitter, Del. Korman further elaborated:
One way or another, Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Department of Transportation need a plan to complete the Purple Line. We are not leaving a scar through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
The State was ill-positioned to absorb these massive cost overruns before the pandemic. The categorical opposition of federal Republicans to aid to states, as was done during the 2007 economic crisis, only exacerbates the already severe problem.
While an autopsy on the current situation is perhaps premature, key architects of the project have now conveniently left the building. Perpetually purple tied Mike Madden, the deputy director for the project, is gone. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who was critical to gaining Hogan’s support for the project which he opposed during his campaign, has also moved along. No one can say either lacks impeccable timing.
Proponents of the project love to blame the environmental lawsuit for delaying it. But these sorts of suits are utterly typical and expected in major projects. Gov. Bob Ehrlich managed to complete the Intercounty Connector on time and on budget despite major environmental lawsuits that attempted to stop that project.
More important factors include the severe underestimation of costs related to tracks owned by CSX. The consortium has also accused the State of being slow to acquire properties necessary to complete the project.
The prediction track record on the project of Cassandras like Seventh State has proven far more prescient than that of supporters who continue to tout that the Purple Line is a “great value” and how the P3 “has overcome challenges that hampered Metrorail’s Silver Line.”
Advocates have a lot of explaining to do. The P3 was sold as a means to insulate the public from exactly these sorts of problems. Instead, we’re faced with the prospect of paying incredibly higher sums to complete the project or left with the priciest ditch in America.