The Maryland Department of Transportation has received approval to seek a private partner to build a $2.2 billion light-rail transit line in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, the Washington Post reported.
The state’s Board of Public Works unanimously approved the plan for a public-private partnership (P3) to build the 16-mile Purple Line.
“This is a project that’s a big deal, and it’s going to be a big deal for a long time,” Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr. told the board. “If this works . . . we want to make this a model” for other large infrastructure projects, he added.
Board members also approved the Maryland Transit Authority’s (MTA) proposed competitive solicitation method for selecting a private concessionaire to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the east-west light-rail line.
The board’s approval of a P3 delivery method for this project means that a single private partner will be responsible for designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the project, as well as providing up to $900 million in private financing.
“The Department of Transportation presented a solid plan to bring private-sector funding, innovation and best practices to this regionally important transit line,” said Gov. O’Malley. “Thanks to the leadership of Lt. Gov. [Anthony] Brown and today’s unanimous vote by my fellow board members, we are sending a clear signal to private-industry leaders throughout the world that Maryland is open for business and welcomes their ideas and ingenuity as we build a 21st century transportation network to support and grow our economy.”
The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail line that runs east-west inside the Capital Beltway between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County with direct connections to Metrorail’s Orange Line, Green Line and two branches of the Red Line, and to MARC’s Brunswick, Camden and Penn Lines. A total of 21 stations are planned. The total project cost is $2.2 billion, with the private sector expected to invest between $500 million and $900 million. A combination of federal, state and local monies also will be used to fund the project. Thanks to the passage of the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, Gov. O’Malley added $711 million in state funds for design and construction of the Purple Line to MTA’s six-year capital budget (FY 2014–FY 2019).
In return for operating, maintaining, refurbishing or replacing equipment and financing a portion of construction for the Purple Line, the MTA will pay the contractor annual availability payments throughout the 30- to 40-year contract period. Deductions will be made from the payments if the contractor does not meet performance targets, such as on-time performance, vehicle cleanliness and customer service. The MTA will continue to set fares and collect the fare revenue.