Purple Line NOW News - October 28, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • Next Community Advisory Team Meetings Set
  • Please Give! 
  • Status Update on the Purple Line Project

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PURPLE LINE NEWS AND EVENTS

Community Advisory Team Fall Meeting Schedule

The fall meeting schedule has been set for members of the Community Advisory Teams:

  • November 5, Lyttonsville, 6:30 pm
  • November 10, College Park, 6:30 pm
  • November 17, Silver Spring, 6:30 pm
  • December 1, University Boulevard, 6:30 pm
  • December 8, Bethesda, 6:30 pm
  • December 15, Riverdale Park/Glenridge/New Carrollton, 6:30 pm
  • December 17, Long Branch, 6:30 pm

Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

You'll be receiving an email in the next few weeks asking you to consider giving to Purple Line NOW (or renewing your annual contribution). As you know, we don't hold fundraisers, but instead rely on contributions from individuals and businesses to help us bring you information about the project via our newsletter and public fora, which are always free to the public. We attend meetings, like the one you'll read about below, and stay on top of as much construction news as we can to bring you the latest as the project chugs along toward completion.

We hope you will consider supporting Purple Line NOW at whatever level you are most comfortable - all donations are very much appreciated! The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. 

We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality. We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you!

DONATE 

 

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Status Update on the Purple Line

Purple Line NOW attended a discussion on the Purple Line project with Maryland's Department of Transportion, hosted by Senator William Smith, Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, Delegate David Moon, and Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins last Thursday evening. Matt Pollack (Executive Director at Maryland Transit Administration), Vernon Hartsock (Acting Project Director for the Purple Line), and Gary Witherspoon (Purple Line Deputy Project Director) provided a status update on the project as of October 22, 2020.

As MTA moved into the state-managed construction phase, Director Pollack announced that the state does not intend to run the project, but rather will be looking for a new concessionaire in the months ahead to continue the work left on the project.

As of today, the state has taken over around 150 contracts. “The project is now the state’s alignment…the keys have essentially been handed over and the state is now in control of the ROW. As much as the design builder wanted to leave, we wanted to continue. Other than the design builder, everyone else wanted to keep working,” Pollack said.

Mr. Pollack reiterated the state’s commitment to finishing the project, which is always good news to hear. He did mention that the state is still hopeful that negotiations with the current concessionaire (PLTP) can be resolved, even though that will mean a new builder will be hired.

Since the concessionaire ended construction work, the state and PLTP have been working to make sure that sites are safely buttoned up, that all materials and documentation are transferred in an orderly fashion, and that everything gets accounted for as they assume the care, custody, and control of the project. Mr. Pollack said that demobilizing from an active project is “not clean, not pretty,” but they have been maintaining daily transition meetings and focusing on the preservation (security) and protection (safe to go on haitius) of each work site.

Vernon Hartsock went over the short-term and long-term plans as they pertain to the schedule. They are assessing what work can go forward as they search for a new concessionaire and what work must be closed for a new builder to complete. They each emphasized the need to continue certain aspects of the project during this transition time, things like utility relocations and other work, so that the new concessionaire can be given a “clean sheet” from which to begin their work with many of the hurdles already resolved.

For those concerned about losing the character of the project, the civil engineering (e.g. trackbeds, stations, physical infrastructure) is 97% done. The systems, the technology, the power, are about 65% completed. They have the designer of record, Atkins, working for them under direct contract.

Production of the rail cars is in full force with two out of the 26 almost fully done and in testing phase. Mr. Pollack said that communities have been participating in neighborhood walks-throughs so that MTA can listen to residents and elected officials and see firsthand what items need to be dealt with first -- things like sidewalks, fencing, etc.

Most encouraging, perhaps, is that some crews have resumed work on the project, starting with a few locations, including the aforementioned water and sewer relocation, but also includes concrete and paving work, overhead power location, traffic engineering services, and landscaping around the University of Maryland’s M. Pollack said, “Every day we are greenlighting contractors to continue the work.”

We wanted to highlight some of the questions that were asked, but as soon as the recording link is available, we'll include it in our newsletter so you can listen to the entire discussion at your convenience.

1) What is the plan going forward?

Pollack: Although we are still in settlement discussions and there remains some hope that we can come to agreement, absent that, we will resolicit for a new concessionaire and design build contractor to finish the work.

2) What is the definition of short-term work?

Pollack: “De-risking the project. Trying to get all the work done that tend to be causes of concerns for a [future] concessionaire. To do that, MTA is hoping to complete all utilities so the next contractor that comes in will have a reduced risk and hopefully allow the state to garner better prices to take the project to completion.

3) What about the work that has been done to prevent the project from becoming stagnant?

Pollack: Some area where work won’t be able to continue will need to be closed down properly for safety reasons, but if there is an area where we can restore sidewalks in the short term, or areas that need some additional protection, we will work to make that happen.

4) Who will pay for Purple Line if the private sector has pulled out?

Pollack: The private sector is not paying for the job. The private sector is financing the job. State/taxpayers are paying for job. Previously, the private sector was going to finance the project and then get paid back. But, we have a commitment from the state and we are still pursuing the TIFIA loans and will use the transportation trust fund where needed to fund the project going forward.

5) What about the CCT?

Pollack: As far as the funding goes, there is no intention of deleting scale at that design level. Timing is difficult for the CCT users in that construction must be almost completely done before the trail can be reestablished due to the way it is set up. There is going to be electric rail there so we cannot open safely in advance of the project.

Let us know if YOU have any questions by sending an email to us at cscott@purplelinenow.com and we will try to get them answered. As always, we'll bring you as much information as possible from the CAT meetings and as developments occur.

Stay Connected!

We have a new feature for those who prefer to print off our newsletter (or save it to a PDF) instead of reading in your email. If you visit our website and click on the title of the article you wish to print or save, you'll be brought to a page that has a small printer and PDF icon at the top. Click on the one you prefer. You do not need our permission to circulate or forward our newsletter.

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.


Purple Line NOW Breaking News

Breaking News

Thank you to everyone who responded to our request on Wednesday and sent an email to Governor Hogan asking him to publicly commit to completing the Purple Line and to restart construction as soon as possible. Good news! On Thursday, the Governor offered that reassurance. (B. DePuyt, Maryland Matters, Hogan Offers Reassurances on Purple Line, 1 Oct 2020)

"We’re going to continue to move forward,” Hogan said. “We have a whole group of great construction companies that want to finish the job. The state is going to finish the job.” Check out the article for more details.

We are pleased that we now have more of a path forward, but as elected leaders and our members have expressed, the most immediate challenge is finding ways to minimize delay and resultant disruption. Stay tuned.

Purple Line Event Happening Today

We hope to learn more today (Saturday at 10 a.m.) at tours arranged by MTA and Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass. Purple Line NOW Board Members will be attending a few of these tours, but for those who are not in attendance, portions of the event will be streamed live on Facebook via Councilmember Glass' Facebook page.  We encourage you to share that link with those not in attendance.


Purple Line NOW News - September 30, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • Action Alert - Urge Governor Hogan to Commit to Completing the Purple Line!
  • MDOT Briefing on Purple Line Status to Prince George's County Council
  • Purple Line in the News

Action Alert

While we have heard from, and are encouraged by, Governor Hogan’s capable staff who tell us that the state is committed to completing the project, as we mentioned in the last edition of Purple Line NOW News, we want to hear it from Maryland’s top elected official himself.

If you agree with us, please send a quick note to Governor Hogan and ask him to publicly announce his commitment to complete the Purple Line and take the steps necessary to swiftly resume construction.

Thank you in advance!

Stay Connected!

We have a new feature for those who prefer to print off our newsletter (or save it to a PDF) instead of reading in your email. If you visit our website and click on the title of the article you wish to print or save, you'll be brought to a page that has a small printer and PDF icon at the top. Click on the one you prefer. You do not need our permission to circulate or forward our newsletter.

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.

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PURPLE LINE NEWS AND EVENTS

Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

In order for us to provide events like last month's forum for you at no cost and information like that which is contained in this newsletter, we ask you to consider supporting Purple Line NOW at whatever level you are most comfortable - all donations are very much appreciated! The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. 

We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality. We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you! 

 

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Maryland Department of Transportation Briefing to Prince George's County Council

As we did in the previous edition of the Purple Line NEWs where we highlighted some of the key points from the Montgomery County Council’s briefing from the state, this week we bring you their briefing to the Prince George’s County Council which occurred on September 22, 2020.

Because the state’s briefing was similar to the Montgomery County briefing, we will focus primarily on new information that was given and on the questions asked by councilmembers. If you want additional information, we encourage you to listen to the briefing in full. As always, if you have questions, please send them along to us and we will try to get answers for you.

Kevin Quinn, Administrator, Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/MTA), Matt Pollack, Purple Line Project Director, MDOT/MTA, and Jaclyn Hartman, Chief Financial Officer for the Maryland Department of Transportation submitted their briefing in person via Zoom. Maryland Secretary of Transportation Greg Slater did not attend.

As with the previous briefing, Administrator Quinn addressed two main areas:

  • Status of Litigation
  • Status of Project Delivery

While he reiterated that he cannot talk about their legal strategy on the advice of counsel, he did say their focus right now is to “deliver the project to residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties." He continued by saying that they are coordinating closely with the concessionaire with the priority of making things safe as they begin to “button up” the various sites along the alignment.


Slope Protection - Talbot Avenue

Quinn said that the teams on the project delivery side are meeting daily with PLTP (the concessionaire) and working on solutions on every segment of the alignment for an orderly transition. He said that there were three phases in that transition:

  • Legal phase -- which is currently ongoing.
  • Short term management of construction.
  • Long term prospects -- how they will move forward.

Quinn said it is “too early to speculate” what the long-term plan will be. They will be taking a four- to six-month period to evaluate the entire scope of work to be done and identify options moving forward. He repeated what he said at Montgomery County’s briefing as it relates to settlement, chiefly that "the state remains open to a fair and reasonable settlement with a good partner for next 30 years.”

The plan for transition will be three-fold:

  • Safety – Identifying sites that must be buttoned up, making sure that they do not impede pedestrian access.
  • Keeping construction going by maintaining as much work as possible.
  • Once a full evaluation is completed, communicating plans to the communities via their respective CAT teams.

Matt Pollack spoke next and said that his team and PLTP are focused on protection of the work that has been done, leaving sites in safe condition, ensuring that the volumes of information and documents are in place, and talking to subcontractors in respect to the scope of work to be done. He mentioned that once the state fully takes over the management of the project, they will be managing in excess of 100 contracts and the state will need to bring on more staff to administrate those contracts previously managed by PLTP. However, he has “confidence that the right team is in place to move the project forward.”


Safety Line Removal - Connecticut Avenue

Councilmember Deni Taveras asked specific questions about whether, once all the bills have been paid and the increase in costs due to finding new partners to work with would not be more than just settling the lawsuit. Administrator Quinn answered that the amount the concessionaire was seeking was $800M, and while there was a monetary component to a settlement, there was also a “future risk” component, along with risks that would have been shifted to the counties, so that played into their decision, as well.

Taveras pressed Quinn and Pollack on whether they were taking into consideration businesses who were struggling because of the project’s construction, then the pandemic, and now looking toward having to endure a long delay in the project. The councilmember wanted to know what they were doing to help preserve those businesses. Quinn said that their priority in this short term is to identify work in those areas and that they would then try to mitigate some of that disruption. He said it would be “priority number one.”

Councilmember Dannielle Glaros was up next. You may remember the councilmember spoke about all that was going on in her district at our Purple Line NOW forum in August. She has been involved with the Purple Line for many years, many predating her time as a councilmember. Glaros said she is “trying to understand what is happening right now. Hardly any construction is going on along the line in her district where it was happening in early August.” She asked whether the state or PLTP is the appropriate point of contact right now? Mr. Pollack said that councilmembers and their residents should consider the state as their point person going forward. He said right now, the concessionaire is fully focused on demobilizing before being done with the project.

Currently, the state is negotiating the transfer agreement. The importance of the transfer agreement is that it gives the state the authority to work with some of the subcontractors. Pollack said that “until we have access to those subcontractors, we do not have a contract to move the work forward.” The actual sites have not been turned over yet, but they are creating protective measures for closing those sites. Once done, sometime in the next week or so, the concessionaire will hand over keys.

Glaros said, “Financially, I can’t wrap my head around this,” as she continued to press about where the money is going to come from to complete the project if the state still has to pay PLTC for some level of work. “I’m trying to figure out how anything that is happening right now is in the best interest of the county taxpayer, the state taxpayer. Help me understand the financial piece. How is the state going to deliver a project that does not skyrocket in price?”

Jacqueline Hartman, Chief Financial Officer for MDOT provided some specifics by explaining that “there are no past expenses sitting out there. In terms of moving forward, [had the concessionaire not quit], the next phase would have come from a TIFIA loan that developer would have taken out.” This aligns with what we have already heard that Maryland has paid directly for all the work thus far and that PLTP had not yet spent any of its contribution to the project or used its existing financing.

In lieu of using the contractor’s TIFIA loan, the state will take out alternate financing tied to the flexibility of the transportation trust fund which, she said, is a “consolidated source for all of transportation needs.” They will use that fund to keep the project moving forward, Hartman said, "and it would look and feel a whole lot like it did under P3.” Hartman indicated that this approach was preferred because, unlike directly issuing a bond, lending against the transportation trust fund has a limited effect on perceptions of Maryland’s overall credit worthiness. Glaros asked Ms. Hartman to clarify whether the rumor was true that the costs associated with the state take-over of the Purple Line means that other transit projects would be put on hold. Hartman said that “the trust fund supports all transportation and while it could mean additional cuts to transit, that is not the intent.”

Glaros said that she had already been concerned about some of the “value engineering” that Governor Hogan put in place at the contract start and requested whether we might see further cuts during the transfer. Mr. Pollack said that they were not seeing this as an opportunity for further value engineering. The design was largely completed and the state intends to pay the design team that had been working for PLTP to finish that work.

Glaros commented on her lack of confidence in the state’s ability to manage hundreds of contracts. She said, “this has been a roller coaster ride. Hanging at the top of loop upside down. I’m not sure whether we are going forward or backward and it is very tough on residents who so need the benefits of the project being left with empty infrastructure for a time frame that is not clear at this moment in time.” She encouraged the state to tell residents when they can expect to see a restart date as soon as possible.

Councilmember Mel Franklin asked directly whether construction has, in fact, stopped. “Where,” he asked, “is the state literally right now?” Mr. Pollack said that the work that is going on is only to make the sites safe as they close the them down. He said they are talking to those subcontractors they are able to while they wait for the negotiations to finish which will then allow them access to all subcontractors.


Secured South Entrance - Bethesda Metro

Purple Line in the News

The Purple Line has certainly been in the news of late. We have gathered some of the most timely articles here for you:

  1. Shaver, Washington Post, Purple Line construction workers will be packed up and ready to leave by mid-October, September 24, 2020.
  2. Glaros, Media Matters, The Purple Line Needs True Leadership, September 29, 2020.
  3. DuPuyt, Media Matters, Purple Line Will Be Delayed as MDOT Seeks Management Solution, September 23, 2020.

Purple Line NOW News - September 16, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • MDOT Briefing on Purple Line Status to Montgomery County Council
  • Photos from Around the Purple Line Corridor

Stay Connected!

We have a new feature for those who prefer to print off our newsletter (or save it to a PDF) instead of reading in your email. If you visit our website and click on the title of the article you wish to print or save, you'll be brought to a page that has a small printer and PDF icon at the top. Click on the one you prefer. You do not need our permission to circulate or forward our newsletter.

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.

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PURPLE LINE NEWS AND EVENTS

Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

In order for us to provide events like last month's forum for you at no cost and information like that which is contained in this newsletter, we ask you to consider supporting Purple Line NOW at whatever level you are most comfortable - all donations are very much appreciated! The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. 

We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality. We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you! 

DONATE

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Maryland Department of Transportation Briefing to Montgomery County Council

Purple Line NOW has been advocating for the transit line for the better part of three decades and we have seen our share of ups and downs throughout that time. The news this week, out of the circuit court, which allows the project’s builder to abandon the project is certainly the most recent hurdle the project is facing.

If you missed Purple Line NOW’s official response to the news, you can read that press release here: Yesterday's Ruling: Purple Line NOW Presses for Path Forward.

Members of our organization sat in on yesterday's briefing by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) on the Purple Line. Expected representatives were to include Greg Slater, Secretary, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Kevin Quinn, Administrator, Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/MTA), Matt Pollack, Purple Line Project Director, MDOT/MTA, and Christopher Conklin, Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT). Secretary Slater was unable to attend.

The key points to come out of the meeting involved timeline, plans, and pressing Governor Hogan to publicly comment and commit to finishing the project.

Timeline

According to Mr. Quinn and Mr. Pollack, it will take about 30 days for them to assess the entire alignment, and by the end of that period, they expect to have a segment-by-segment, district-by-district breakdown of what can continue immediately, what may need to be locked up, where pedestrian access can be improved, etc. They are doing a walk-through with the concessionaire to makes sure areas under construction will be made safe for pedestrians.


Silver Spring Station - Deck Installation

Each reiterated that their focus is on keeping construction moving throughout the corridor in the short term while a long term plan is being worked out. This will be determined by a legal evaluation of the subcontracts, staffing capacity, as well as other critical areas of assessment.

The pair said that within four to six months, they will have a better idea of a path forward and what kind of package they will put together. Much of it will depend on how the litigation falls out, but Quinn repeated that it is their intent construction will continue during that time.

Moving Forward

Mr. Pollack said that they are looking at all options and the “cure” could involve one of, or a combination of, the following:

  • The state and PLTP comes to a fair and reasonable agreement and move forward.
  • The state takes over the project entirely.
  • Rebidding the project out for construction and/or design.

He emphasized that the final plan may include a combination of two or more options.

We did have a bit of good news yesterday. The Community Advisory Teams (CATs) will likely begin meeting again in November. We will let you know those dates when they are put on the calendar.

Workforce

One of the questions we have been asked most in the wake of the news is what will happen to the workforce – will they be rehired or laid off in the face of an unprecedented pandemic?

Right now, with very little information being shared while the state works on assessing their options, Quinn reminded the Council that the answer depends on whether or not they hire subcontractors who could insist on managing the hiring of their own personnel. He said that until they come up with the plan, they would not be able to rehire workers immediately, but that current workers will certainly have a “leg up” having worked on the project. Purple Line NOW will keep asking these questions as more information comes out.

Transparency

Councilmember Andrew Friedson asked the following questions and they are important ones as we gather more information and as the MDOT makes decisions concerning the future of the project:

  • What are the options?
  • How much will those options cost?
  • Who will pay for them?
  • When will they be delivered?

We all deserve answers to these questions as quickly as possible. One concern raised by some state and national elected officials is that these costs might disproportionately fall on other mass transit services.

Public Response from Governor Hogan

All Councilmembers pressed Mr. Quinn to communicate to Governor Hogan the need for a public statement about the state’s commitment to seeing the project built. Councilmember Reimer notably said, “Governor Hogan isn’t just a passenger on the train, he’s driving the train!”

Many Councilmembers noted the “punch in the gut” and were highly critical of the Purple Line Transit Partners (the project’s concessionaire) for potentially abandoning the project.

After the meeting was over, a new development reported by Katie Shaver of the Washington Post came to light -- both sides were considering using mediation to complete the project together. (K. Shaver, Washington Post, September 15, 2020.) Stay tuned.

If you have further questions, we are happy to try to get answers for you, so send them along.

Photos from Around the Purple Line Corridor


Campus Drive

New Carrollton Metro Station

Talbot Avenue Bridge, Photo Courtesy of Ralph Bennett


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