Maryland Purple Line owner, union reach PLA on $9.3B project

Dive Brief:

  • Maryland Transit Solutions, owner of the beleaguered Purple Line project connecting Maryland’s Washington, D.C. suburbs, has agreed to a project labor agreement with Laborers’ International Union of North America’s Local 11 chapter.
  • The parties signed the agreement the week of Aug. 15 and construction has picked up after months of delay while switching contractors. When finished in 2026, the light rail project will include 21 stations along a 16.2-mile span connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
  • Steve Lanning, business manager for LiUNA Local 11, said the agreement included a “very solid wage package” of $27.81 an hour to start, adding “they’re going to get the qualified laborers they want who are going to stick around for a delayed job that doesn’t need any more issues.”

Dive Insight:

In a contractual re-set, the Maryland Board of Public Works in January tapped Dragados USA and OHL USA — American subsidiaries of two major Spanish firms — to take over as the design-build consortium on the project.

The previous JV, made up of Fluor, Lane Construction and Traylor Bros., quit the job before completing it. A Maryland judge permitted the group to exit the deal in late 2020, due to the nature of the contract language allowing it to walk if a dispute lasted long enough. A variety of factors contributed to the departure, including cost overruns and delays. 

MDOT removed the right to unconditionally terminate for a delay when Dragados-OHL came onto the project.

When the new contractors joined, the Maryland Board of Public Works said the total project cost had ballooned by $1.4 billion to $9.3 billion, due to rising material costs and shortages, supply chain challenges, labor struggles and increasing insurance costs. The project is more than four years behind schedule. 

Lanning said the PLA is “exciting” because union members understand the value of a three-to-four year project.

Many of the LiUNA Local 11 members finishing up work on the nearby Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington will soon find themselves laid off as the project ends, Lanning said, but they will roll directly over to the Purple Line project to continue work.

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