Concrete Issues Plague MD Purple Line


Issues with concrete at a Maryland Metro entrance shaft are just one of a number of problems associated with the state’s Purple Line project that have recently come to light in documentation requested by local news station WTOP.

Problems with communications and traffic and safety changes made without permission were also named as issues. Currently, the concrete in place at the entrance shaft has been labeled defective by the state.

Maryland Purple Line Project

According to Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration, the Purple Line endeavor is a 16-mile light rail project that will run from Bethesda, in Montgomery County, to New Carrollton, in Prince George's County, eventually providing a direct connection for Metrorail Red, Green and Orange Lines; at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton. The project will also connect with MARC, Amtrak and local bus options. The Purple Line will be powered by a catenary system.

Owned by MDOT MTA, the project is being built in a public-private partnership with Purple Line Transit Partners, who will design, build and operate, as well as maintain, the system for 35 years. Other teams collaborating on the project include: the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and local municipalities.

Plans began with assessments in 2002 to 2008, followed by a draft environmental impact study and light rail being selected as transportation. The FTA issued the final record of decision in 2014, followed by PLTP being chosen in 2016 to assist with the project. The endeavor is currently slated for completion in April 2023, though those involved with the project have emphasized that they are still aiming for the end of 2022.

According to WTOP, in March a judge cleared a lawsuit that might have brought construction to a halt, the second such challenge. In September, officials announced noted that the line would open in phases, starting in Prince George’s County, where the first stations will open. The trains are being built in New York and will arrive for testing in 2021.

Recent Issues

Though the issues recently found have been acknowledged by both Purple Line Transit Constructors and Purple Line Transit Partners, both have emphasized that the additional work will not push back the opening date. The cost of the fixes will also fall to PLTC, noted Purple Line Transit Constructors spokesperson Carla Julian.

Out of the 47 oversight reports, some date back to 2016 and 2017 regarding issues with communicating with the public, more than one instance of contractors traversing private property without necessary permission and traffic safety issues. According to WTOP, more minor issues were fairly easily resolved.

More serious issues, though, include instances where construction was commenced without the proper approvals. In July 2018, designs were returned with a request for revisions, but construction still began two weeks later.

In December, problems identified with the concrete included: cracks in approach slabs, concrete out of tolerance, pockmarks and footprints. The sidewalk has issues with “honeycombed sections, voids and does not meet the minimum cover requirements for welded wire reinforcement,” according to the report.

Concrete for ring and header beams at the Bethesda shaft did not meet the criteria of the WMATA and is considered defective. The frame of the shaft is slated for completion next summer, with the interior build-out finished by the end of 2021.


Tagged categories: concrete; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Quality control; Rail

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