November 2013

Light Rail Projects Make Inroads in U.S., Beyond

by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

The Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile light rail transit line from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County.

The Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile light rail transit line from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County.
Light rail projects in the U.S. and across the globe are making headway in streamlining the public transportation landscape. We visit a sampling of projects in the planning, development and construction, as well as operational phases to gauge their progress.

Baltimore, Maryland
The 16-mile Purple Line will provide direct connections to Metrorail, MARC, Amtrak and local bus routes.

The Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile light rail transit line from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County. It will run mainly in dedicated or exclusive lanes, with 21 planned stations. The $2.2 billion project will provide direct connections to the Washington Metropolitan Area  Transit Authority’s Metrorail Orange Line, Green Line and two branches of the Red Line, as well as MARC commuter rail’s Brunswick, Camden and Penn Lines; Amtrak and local bus routes.

Currently, it is difficult and time-consuming to get from many parts of the corridor to Metrorail. The Purple Line would provide a high-quality, faster and more dependable east-west transit link that does not exist today.

It would provide a direct link to the state's primary university and largest employer in Prince George's County, the University of Maryland.    

The number of people and jobs in the area is growing and more people are traveling east to west and vice versa.  The existing roads are highly congested, and commuting times continue to increase. The existing east-west bus services are unreliable and slow.   

The project is expected to improve east-west mobility and reduce travel times for thousands of area residents. This fall, Gov. Martin O’Malley and members of the Board of Public Works (BPW) approved the MTA’s plan to deliver the Purple Line through a public-private partnership (P3). Board members also approved the MTA’s proposed competitive solicitation method for selecting a private concessionaire to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the east-west light rail line.

The BPW’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. Per 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).

With the vote by BPW members to approve the competitive solicitation process for selecting a private partner, MTA is slated to issue a Request for Qualifications and select the short list of qualified proposers by the end of 2013 and announce a preferred partner by fall 2014.
Construction on the Purple Line could begin in 2015, if funding is available. It would likely take three years to five years to complete construction.


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