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MD Lt. Governor Brown: Odds improve for federal funding for Red, Purple lines

Federal transportation officials are taking Baltimore’s Red Line more seriously thanks to the state’s increased financial commitment to the project, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown told the Baltimore Business Journal.

Brown met Monday in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari to discuss funding for the proposed $2.57 billion Red Line and the $2.15 Purple Line. The Red Line is a 14.1-mile transit system that would connect east and west Baltimore, while the Purple Line is a 16.1-mile rail line connecting Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.

The federal government will fund about half of the combined $4.72 billion price tag for the transit lines if the state can pay the other half. Maryland has requested $1.25 billion from the Federal Transit Administration for the Red Line in the federal agency’s 2014 New Starts funding list. It also requested $1.1 billion in funding for the Purple Line.

Actions taken by the General Assembly this past session improved the odds for federal funding, Brown said. The 2013 General Assembly passed a 2 percent sales tax on gasoline that the state says will add $4.4 billion to state coffers for transportation costs over the next six years. The state Legislature also passed public-private partnership bill, championed by Brown, that encourages joint projects between the state and private companies.

Federal transportation officials needed assurance that the state could foot its half of the bill when it came to the Red and Purple Lines, Brown said.

“I think the Red Line and the Purple Line were in jeopardy of stalling. It was a tremendous question mark if the state would be able to step up with additional resources,” Brown said. “Without a state investment, there would have been a zero investment by the federal government.”

Construction is scheduled to begin on the projects in 2015, if financing is secured. The Red and Purple Lines would then open in 2020.

The next step for the projects, Brown said, is a May 15 forum with business leaders on financing the Purple Line. The Maryland Department of Transportation sent out a request for information to private companies on potential financing options for the Red and Purple Lines. Brown said the forum is already over-booked with interested companies. He did not know how many plan on attending.

The state is considering all options when it comes to private financing, Brown said. That could include hiring companies to design, build, operate and maintain the transit lines, he said. Securing private financing for either the Red or Purple Line could also free up financing for other state transportation projects, Brown said.

“Right now we’re looking at all the above and receiving information on what is feasible for the Red Line,” he said.

 

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