AASHTO Journal

Grant Agreement Reported to Pave Way for Maryland’s Light-Rail Purple Line

Maryland officials said they reached agreement with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for the Federal Transit Administration to move forward on a $900 million grant to help the state build a new light-rail transit line in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press and the Washington Post reported that a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said the federal-state talks on the grant reached a breakthrough during "very productive, high-level conversations" on Aug. 18 and 21.

The east-west Maryland Purple Line had been just days away from having officials sign an FTA full funding grant agreement a year ago, before a court stalled the project by ruling that its planners needed to first update its environmental impact assessment and ridership projections.

capitol0816.jpgAn appeals court eventually overturned that decision this summer, but in the meantime President Trump in his budget plan proposed eliminating FTA capital grants for projects that did not already have signed funding agreements.

Congress, however, in passing fiscal 2017 appropriations included funding for the Purple Line as well as other major projects elsewhere that have long been in the planning pipeline and had been counting on federal funds.

Backers say the light-rail system will take tens of thousands of riders off the area's heavily congested roads.

The AP, citing the governor's spokesman, said the grant agreement "would free up $325 million in federal funds already appropriated and a total of $900 million over the life of the funding arrangement."

The total construction cost will reportedly be about $2 billion, and Maryland officials had said obtaining the federal grant was a key to building it. The private partners that are contracted to design, build and operate it also obtained a long-term, low-interest federal TIFIA loan of $874.6 million in June 2016.

The Post reported that a Maryland Department of Transportation confirmed the new development and said officials expected to sign the formal grant agreement in the coming week.

The 16.2-mile Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, according to the project website, will operate streetcars powered by overhead electrical lines on what will mostly be a dedicated track system. Its 21 stations include some that will intersect with the region's heavy-rail Metro subway system, regional commuter rail lines, Amtrak's intercity passenger rail, and bus services.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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