Monday, May 18, 2015

Hope Fading for new Maryland Transit Projects

For months it was Maryland's big guessing game: what would the new governor Hogan do with those two New Starts projects, both designed and ready for construction and just waiting for the bids to be tallied?

Well, for those reading the smoke signals, the smoke is getting thicker and the signs are not good for the projects. A deadline last week by which the Purple Line bidders were supposed to get a nod whether the bid deadline in August was real and a serious bid worth their while came and went. 
Instead Hogan told the Washington Post the bid date has been suspended and "another month" of deliberation was needed. No precise date has been set.

Hogan said the existing price tag of $153 million per mile for the project, which would link New Carrollton with Bethesda, is “not acceptable.”
“Two miles of that would fund our entire school construction for the entire state,” Hogan (R) said. Asked whether he has an acceptable cost in mind, Hogan said, “It would have to be dramatically lower than that.”
Aides to the governor insisted that he has not yet made a decision. (WP)

The Purple Line is estimated to cost $2.5 billion and was supposed to be built as a public private partnership in which the public side offers the framework under which a private consortium would do the final design, build and operate the system. In such a P3 set-up the initial cost exposure of the State is lower than in a traditional "design-bid-build" set-up. However, the private side requires re-payment over time and like any mortgage, this increases the base amount.

The Red and Purple Line projects are on the list of federally recommended projects with $1.8  billion potential federal funding share for both combined. About half a billion dollars have been spent on design to date.

The projects would be the first modern light rail applications in Maryland using low floor vehicles that operate on a separate right of way in many respects like metro, in the case of the Red Line, also in a tunnel for sections of the alignment.

It was generally thought that the Purple Line was better positioned to receive the nod of the Republican administration  since P3's are typically liked by conservatives. 

The finalization of the P3 portion of the Red Line bid packages has no deadline anymore, making the prospects of that $2.9billion project even dimmer than those of the suburban Washington project. 

Red Line rallies in support of this Baltimore line  were held last week  and another rally is planned for Wednesday 5pm at West Baltimore's MARC station. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
updated 16:32h

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