Builders file plan to dissolve partnership building Maryland's Purple Line

News Wire Digest for June 24: Union wants better virus testing from Amtrak, Metra; preservation fight ends as San Jose bridge comes down
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Wednesday morning rail news:

Builders of Maryland light rail project say they'll dissolve partnership

The consortium building Maryland’s line rail Purple Line says it will dissolve the project’s public-private partnership, which was supposed to cover a 36-year period, if it can’t reach agreement with state officials on cost overruns and extensive delays. The Washington Post reports Purple Line Transit Partners filed a notice of termination, effective in 60 days,  after a June 20 deadline passed to reach agreement on the overruns, which have reached $755 million for a project delayed by a series of lawsuits and design changes. A Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman says the agency will respond with a “notice of concessionaire default” disputing the consortium’s right to file a termination notice, and will “pursue all legal options available to the state.” The consortium said in May it planned to walk away from the project over the lack of payment to cover the overruns [see “UP closes Little Rock locomotive shop …” News Wire Digest, May 3, 2020].

Maintenance union wants better virus testing from Amtrak, Metra
A union representing track construction and maintenance workers has charged Amtrak and Metra are negligent for failing to provide general testing and tracing of employees for COVID-19. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, a division of the Teamsters, are “frustrated and fearful” because of the lack of testing, according to union vice president, and held informational picketing in front of the house of Amtrak board chairman Anthony Coscia on Monday. Amtrak spokeswoman Beth Toll told the paper it performs contact tracing in accordance with CDC guidelines and performs no-expense testing for those with symptoms or possible exposure. The union, which notes social distancing is often impossible in its work, wants monthly testing as well as temperature screenings before work. The union put out a press release on Tuesday expressing similar concerns about Metra and claimed the commuter railroad’s procedures puts employees and passengers at greater risk, although maintenance workers do not normally come in contact with passengers. Its members were scheduled to hold informational picking at the home of Metra’s board chairman on Tuesday. In a statement, Metra told Crain’s Chicago Business, in a paywalled article, that the union’s views were “distorted.”

San Jose bridge comes down, ending preservation fight
A 99-year-old wooden railroad bridge in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, Calif., is being demolished, ending a seven-year effort to save the bridge. Work to demolish the structure began Friday, and a request for an injunction to stop the work was denied by a Superior Court judge on Monday, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The bridge, built in 1921,was part of a Union Pacific right-of-way purchased by the city to extend its Three Creeks Trail, and the city has long sought to replace it with a new steel bridge, already purchased and waiting in storage. But the group Friends of the Trestle sued in an effort to save the bridge after the city voted to demolish it in 2014, setting off a series of court battles. In May, a state appeals court refused to overturn a ruling allowing demolition of the bridge, setting the stage for the current work [see “Facebook reconsidering commitment to transit project,” News Wire Digest, May 26, 2020].




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