Construction of long-awaited Purple Line begins in Prince George’s

Source: Sara Gilgore, Washington Busines Journal, August 28, 2017
The latest investment in the 16.2-mile, $5.6 billion project is a $900 million infusion of federal dollars, including the $325 million already appropriated for the project — funding the Trump administration had proposed cutting but saved partly because the public-private partnership building the Purple Line could serve as a model for other U.S. transit systems. The Purple Line P3, to be funded by the federal, state and local governments and the private sector, is the largest in the country’s history.  The system’s construction alone will mean thousands of jobs for the state — more than 6,000 construction positions and more than 400 ongoing jobs — and is expected to generate millions of dollars in economic development. …


MD: ARTBA: Purple Line legal woes seen as bad precedent for transportation P3s
Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, August 25, 2017 (subscription required)
A year-long legal delay in Maryland’s $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail system being financed as a public-private partnership poses risks for the future of similar transportation P3 projects, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association said in a brief filed with a federal appeals court. In its friend-of-the-court brief, ARTBA contends that federal Judge Richard Leon of the District Court for the District of Columbia misapplied the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when he revoked the project’s environmental permits, stopping work on the project.  “Unless reversed, this precedent will have adverse consequences for complex transportation and related infrastructure projects across the country.” ARTBA said. “The district court’s holding injects new delay and litigation risks, thereby stifling the growth of this key financing mechanism to leverage and combine governmental and private dollars and responsibilities to meet the nation’s exigent transportation needs.” …

Purple Line P3 back on track for $900 million federal transit grant
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, August 22, 2017 (subscription required)

Maryland and federal officials will sign a federal funding agreement next week for a promised $900 million federal grant to help fund the construction of the $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail system being financed as a public-private partnership. The Purple Line would connect with the Washington Area Mass Transit Authority’s Metrorail system and Amtrak at several points on its 16-mile route through the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said late Monday that the Transportation Department agreed to move ahead on the grant following “very productive, high-level conversations” between Hogan and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. …

Feds join court fight to restart $5.6 billion P3 Purple Line light rail
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, July 17, 2017 (subscription required)
The Federal Transit Administration has joined Maryland in a court battle seeking to overturn a federal judge’s order that halted work on the $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail project being financed as a public-private partnership. The FTA filed documents on Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to join the state’s case as it fights District Judge Richard Leon’s decision in August 2016 to vacate the project’s federal environmental clearance.  Maryland was only five days away from signing an acceptance agreement with the FTA for a $900 million New Starts grant when Leon’s order cut off funding for the Purple Line until a final decision in a lawsuit over environmental issues that was filed in 2014. …

Maryland seeks fast track for Purple Line appeal
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, July 5, 2017
Maryland is urging a federal appeals court to speed up the state’s effort to overturn a lower court order that has halted work for almost a year on its proposed $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail system being financed as a public-private partnership. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a motion July 3 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the court to expedite the hearing schedule by ordering briefings to begin by July 20 and end no later than Aug. 24. At that point, the court likely would hear oral arguments before issuing a decision. …

Opinion: The Purple Line is fading to black
Source: Washington Post, April 5, 2017
After a quarter-century of planning, several hundred million dollars in public money, scores of public hearings and endless studies, the Purple Line, one of the Washington area’s most important transit projects, may be facing extinction. If that happens, it would be a testament to dysfunction, inertia and judicial negligence.  Having come within five days of receiving $900 million in federal funding, the 16-mile light-rail line was dealt an unwarranted setback last summer by a federal judge, whose ongoing foot-dragging, combined with the Trump administration’s hostility to new transit ventures, imperils an east-west link that would be a lifeline for tens of thousands of residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and would revitalize an arc of close-in suburban communities. With every passing day, the Purple Line’s prospects are dimming. The federal funding agreement frozen in August by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon was the project’s linchpin; without it, a multibillion-dollar public-private partnership cannot go forward, and investors who were ready to start building are stuck. Without a green light now from Mr. Leon, it may be all but impossible to revive the federal funding agreement for the foreseeable future. That’s because the Trump administration has proposed halting all cash for transit projects that lack signed funding agreements, starting almost immediately and lasting for the remainder of the fiscal year. …

Judge Keeps Purple Line P3 in Limbo
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, November 28, 2016

The question of whether Maryland’s $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail project will be financed as a public-private partnership remains in limbo until federal officials determine whether the declining ridership on Washington’s Metro system will undermine the viability of the planned 16-mile rail line. The Maryland Transit Administration will not be able to accept a $900 million federal grant already awarded to the project or begin construction on the rail line until the ridership survey is completed. The grant would cover almost half of the project’s $2 billion of construction costs. In an order released Nov. 22, federal Judge Richard Leon, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, removed his earlier stipulation that the project’s completed environmental assessment also would have to be redone in light of the ridership concerns.

Opinion: The case for the Purple Line
Source: Ralph Bennett, Washington Post, September 2, 2016

Opponents of the Purple Line, the light-rail project that would connect Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, often suggest that it be slowed to allow an evaluation of other transportation options. And now a federal judge ordered that the construction be delayed until ridership numbers are recalculated because of declining ridership on Metro. … This project has been studied for more than 25 years. Highway congestion here is regularly ranked among the worst nationally. Clearly, alternatives to commuting by car are the only viable solutions to the mobility problem in this region. Other options — such as alternative routes, improved bus service, bus rapid transit systems and doing nothing — were all rejected after extensive research and public input. Some suggested alternatives — self-driving cars and Uber taxis, which would be stuck on the same roads that are already too crowded — couldn’t pass a laugh test. And a study of bus rapid transit in existing traffic lanes delayed the project for four years. … Hundreds of public hearings were held in the course of the 10-year process of writing the Environmental Impact Statement. Many changes were made to accommodate local concerns. During the year-long cost-reduction exercise, the project’s economic and human importance were strongly affirmed. Transit-dependent real estate investments are planned all along the route, and some are already underway. That shows deep investor confidence in the project. …

Top State Lawyer: Delay Could Derail $5.6 Billion Purple Line P3 Project
Source: Jim Watts, Bond Buyer, July 5, 2016

A proposed six-month delay in the construction of Maryland’s Purple Line light rail project could derail the $5.6 billion transit project that is being financed and built as public-private partnership, the state’s top lawyer said in a legal filing last week. The construction moratorium was suggested in mid-June by federal District Judge Richard Leon, who is hearing a federal environmental lawsuit filed in 2014 by Maryland residents seeking to halt the Purple Line project. … Plaintiffs in the lawsuit said in their filing that a six-month delay would allow a review of their claims that ridership on the system would be less than expected and produce lower revenues due to the recent maintenance woes of the Washington Metrorail system. …

Maryland Purple Line scores federal loan
Source: Douglas Canter, Examiner, June 17, 2016

On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced an $874.6 million federal government loan to Purple Line Transit Partners, LLC for Maryland’s 16.2 mile, 21-station, cross county Purple Line light rail project. With Friday’s financial closing on the underlying joint public-private partnership agreement, transit officials expect construction of the Purple Line to begin in late 2016, with trains running by March 2022. … The Purple Line will be designed, constructed, operated and maintained under a joint public-private partnership agreement between Purple Line Transit Partners, the private partner, and the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration. Transit Partners consists of three firms, Meridiam, an international investor; Star America Infrastructure Partners, a U.S. investment firm; and Fluor, a global construction company. The Maryland Department of Transportation will own the project. But Purple Line Transit Partners will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the project. …

Contractor granted permission to begin pre-construction work on Purple Line
Source: Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, April 22, 2016

A team of private companies recently awarded a $5.6 billion contract to design, build and operate a light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs has begun pre-construction work on the rail project, state officials said late Thursday. The companies — a consortium called Purple Line Transit Partners — were granted “limited notice to proceed” shortly after state Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn signed the contract for a 36-year public-private partnership April 6, officials said. Under the limited go-ahead, the team may complete the line’s design and do soil borings and survey work, said Charles Lattuca, head of project development and delivery for the Maryland Transit Administration.

Purple Line construction may start as early as November
Source: Mike Murillo, WTOP, April 22, 2016

The Purple Line is coming, and construction for the New Carrollton-to-Bethesda light rail line could begin as early as November. … Purple Line Transit Partners, the team of private companies that will build and operate the line, is still finishing up the project design, and more rights of way need to be acquired by the state. The final step will come in July when the Federal Transit Administration approves the full funding agreement that will secure $900 million for the $2.6 billion project. … Construction is expected to begin late this year with utility relocation. Much of the 16-mile line will run along popular trails, which the state said will stay open during construction and after the Purple Line begins operating.

Maryland board approves $5.6-billion Purple Line contract
Source: Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, April 6, 2016

Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved a $5.6 billion contract Wednesday for a team of companies to build and operate a light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs. The board voted 3-0 after a 30-minute discussion. … Some state lawmakers had questioned whether such a large and complex contract — it would span 36 years and be one of the most expensive government contracts ever in Maryland — can be adequately scrutinized in a single meeting among the governor, state treasurer and comptroller. However, Maryland transportation officials said the contract needed approval Wednesday to keep the deal on schedule to reach financial close June 2. A later vote, they said, could jeopardize the 180-day financing approvals that a team of companies received to help pay for the line’s construction, state officials say. … Even so, some state officials have questioned the relatively brief amount of scrutiny the contract has received. The 876-page agreement is full of legalese and highly technical engineering plans, in addition to hundreds of pages of supporting documents. … Kopp told the committee the General Assembly might want to consider making changes to the state’s public-private partnership law to allow a longer contract review period. “Thirty days,” Kopp told the panel, “may not really give everybody enough time.”

Maryland will use MARC fare revenue to pay Purple Line debt, officials say
Source: Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, April 4, 2016

Maryland transportation officials plan to use ticket revenue from the state’s MARC commuter rail system to help pay off debt required to build a light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs, state officials told a Senate committee Monday. Fare revenue from the Purple Line also would be used to cover those payments, the officials said, but the light-rail line isn’t expected to be able to cover all of those costs until trains have been running about 15 years. Until then, commuter rail revenue would make up the difference. While state officials have said for years that they planned to cover the private debt service with state transit revenue, this is the first time they have specified the MARC system, which carries passengers between the District, Baltimore, Frederick, West Virginia, and northeastern Maryland. … The questions came as the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee reviewed a 36-year contract that MDOT has proposed as part of a public-private partnership valued at $5.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive government contracts ever in Maryland. The committee’s review was the only public vetting the contract is expected to receive before the state’s Board of Public Works — which comprises the governor, state treasurer and comptroller — is scheduled to vote on it Wednesday.

True cost of building Purple Line would reach $2.65 billion, analysis finds
Source: Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, March 30, 2016

The true costs of building a Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs would reach $2.65 billion — about $650 million more than the light-rail project’s proposed contract would cover, according to a legislative analysis. Since announcing the contract March 2, the Maryland Department of Transportation has referred to the Purple Line’s design and construction cost as $1.99 billion. But an analysis by the General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services found that figure does not include $447 million of costs outside the contract or another $198 million that the state has already spent on planning the light-rail line. … The contract would span 36 years. A team of companies called Purple Line Transit Partners would help finance construction, design and build the line over six years, and then operate and maintain it over 30 years. The state would pay the team monthly to cover operating and maintenance costs, as well as the private debt service. Even as MDOT officials have repeatedly referred to the Purple Line’s construction cost as $1.99 billion, they have not kept the other expenses a secret.

Maryland’s GOP Governor Larry Hogan Approves Purple Line Transit P3
Source: Bill Reinhardt, Public Works Financing, March 2016

On March 2, Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan instructed Maryland DOT to move forward with the Purple Line light rail project pending further negotiations with Purple Line Transit Partners over cost reductions. … The Purple Line Transit Constructors team will begin design and construction later this year with passenger service scheduled for early 2022. Following the construction, Purple Line Transit Operators, a Fluor-led team comprising Fluor Enterprises, Alternate Concepts, and Spanish railcar vendor CAF USA, Inc., will provide 30 years of operations and maintenance services.

Purple Line design and construction could begin May 16, state says
Source: Katherine Shaver, The Washington Post, July 16, 2015

Maryland transportation officials plan to choose a winning bid to design, build and operate a light-rail Purple Line by Jan. 15, and bidders should assume design and construction work could begin May 16, according to new bid solicitation documents released this week…Four teams of private companies are competing for a 35-year public-private partnership in which the companies would design, build and help finance the line’s construction in exchange for long-term contracts to operate and maintain it. The line would run trains mostly along local streets between Bethesda in Montgomery and New Carrollton in Prince George’s. Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn has said the state has found $215 million in potential savings from design changes and another $75 million from “commercial” changes, such as speeding up payments to reduce the private sector’s financing costs and simplifying review and reporting requirements. Among the other cost-cutting changes in the revised bid solicitation:..Train “event recorders,” which are used in accident investigations, will have to record four fewer data points…The contractor will no longer be required to replace landscaping — including plantings, walkways and steps — on private property that is “displaced” by construction…When determining the proposal with the “best value,” the state will no longer give the bidders’ technical and financial proposals equal weight. Instead, the state will give “slightly greater weight” to the financial proposal…Losing bidders will be paid up to $2.5 million for the value of their “word product,” an increase from the previous $2 million, according to the latest bid solicitation.

Purple Line bid deadline pushed backed to November
Source: Katherine Shaver, The Washington Post, July 9, 2015

If the state Board of Public Works approves a public-private partnership with the winning team, construction could begin soon after a deal is scheduled to be finalized in late spring, state officials said.

The agency pushed back the mid-August deadline to allow the four teams of private companies competing for the project time to incorporate the state’s recent cost-cutting changes to the project. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced in late June that he would move forward with the 16-mile rail line under certain conditions, including if the project’s estimated $2.45 billion cost could be cut and the state’s contribution of upfront cash lowered from about $700 million to $168 million. Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said Thursday the state has found at least $215 million worth of design-change savings. Another $75 million could be saved by giving the bidders more flexibility in “commercial” considerations, such as whether to enter into certain labor agreements…This is the third time the bid deadline has been delayed since Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) took office in January. It was initially pushed back from January to March to give Hogan more time to consider the project after taking office. During his campaign, the governor had criticized the line as too expensive. State officials then delayed it until mid-August, saying they wanted to give the bidders more time to come up with cost-cutting ideas. The bid delays have added almost a year to the project’s schedule, which had construction beginning later this year and the line opening to service in 2020.

Maryland to seek private firm for Purple Line
Source: John Wagner, Washington Post: August 4, 2013

Maryland will seek a private company to build and operate a planned $2.2 billion light-rail Purple Line, marking the first time the state has used such financing on a public transit project. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) plans to make the announcement about the 16-mile transit link at an event in Bethesda on Monday. The governor also plans to highlight more than $1 billion in new funding for transportation projects in Montgomery County, administration officials said.

… Maryland and other states increasingly are turning to public-private partnerships to create more flexibility in financing and construction of large-scale projects at a time when government resources are limited.