Board gives go-ahead for state to seek part­ners for Pur­ple Line rail

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY BRIAN WITTE

AN­NAPO­LIS | Plans for a light rail line to ease traf­fic con­ges­tion in Mont­gomery and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties moved for­ward Wed­nes­day.

The Mary­land Board of Pub­lic Works voted unan­i­mously to au­tho­rize state trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials to seek out pri­vate part­ners to build the Pur­ple Line, a $2.2 bil­lion light rail line that would run from Bethesda to New Car­roll­ton.

Board ap­proval was needed to pro­ceed un­der a law ap­proved by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly this year that cre­ated a frame­work to pur­sue pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships for in­fra­struc­ture projects.

The three-mem­ber board — Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley, Trea­surer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter V.R. Fran­chot — also will need to ap­prove the fi­nal plan, which state trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials say could come be­fore the board in De­cem­ber 2014. State trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials hope the light rail line could open in 2020.

The 16-mile line would have 21 sta­tions and pro­vide a di­rect mode of rail trans­porta­tion for com­muters be­tween the state’s two largest coun­ties with a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of more than 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

Un­der the plan, com­pa­nies would put be­tween $500 mil­lion and $900 mil­lion into the cost, and the state is seek­ing $900 mil­lion in fed­eral money. The state would cover the rest. It would cre­ate the first pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship for a tran­sit

project in the state.

“To move for­ward now, it’s pretty de­pen­dent upon the fed­eral fund­ing com­ing through,” Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Jim Smith told re­porters af­ter the board’s vote.

Henry Kay, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of tran­sit de­vel­op­ment and de­liv­ery for the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said state of­fi­cials hope to get a rec­om­men­da­tion in the fed­eral fis­cal 2015 bud­get. If fed­eral money is not awarded, Mr. Kay said the state could ei­ther pro­vide the amount or let pri­vate com­pa­nies in­vest more.

Mr. Smith said he hoped to have a fi­nal re­quest for pro­pos­als out in April, with a se­lec­tion of a pro­posal in Septem­ber. Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to take five years.

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