Maryland Gov. Greenlights Purple Line Contract – Next City
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Maryland Gov. Greenlights Purple Line Contract

Rendering of the proposed Purple Line cross-suburb light rail (Credit: Maryland Transit Connectors)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Maryland Moves Forward With Purple Line Plans
A partnership headed by Fluor Corporation will design, build, operate and maintain the Purple Line light-rail route connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland.

According to a report in the Railly News, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the awarding of the design-build-operate-maintain contract for the line to Purple Line Transit Partners on March 2. The public-private partnership has three lead partners: Fluor, a global engineering and construction firm based in Irving, Texas; Meridiam, a French global investment firm; and Roslyn, New York-based infrastructure developer and manager Star America. Under this umbrella are two more partnerships, one of which will design and build the 16.12-mile line and the other of which will operate and maintain it for 30 years. Subcontractor Adkins North America will be the lead designer on the project. Work is set to begin later this year, and passenger service should start in 2022.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said in a news release that the Purple Line Transit Partners bid had the “greatest value … the best technical scores by a substantial margin and the lowest cost.”

According to a Montgomery Community Media news story, the bid reduced the state’s upfront cost for the line to $159 million, $8 million below the $168 million ceiling Gov. Hogan had previously announced, and cut annual availability payments over the 30 years of the operations contract by $12 million a year, from $167 million to $149 million.

Sri Lankan Capital Scraps Monorail in Favor of LRT
The Sri Lankan government has decided not to proceed with a previously announced monorail system as a way to ease traffic congestion in the country’s capital and largest city, Colombo, The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka reports. Instead, the government’s economic management committee will recommend a light-rail route as the preferred option for near-term congestion reduction.

Sri Lankan commuters at a railway station in Colombo (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

A key item in making this decision was a recommendation from Minister for Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka that cited a Japan International Cooperation Agency study that concluded an elevated LRT line would be more cost-effective than either monorail or a standard (“heavy”) mass rapid transit system.

The availability of JICA funding for transit projects in Sri Lanka also influenced the decision, as the government plans to request JICA assistance for any new rail line. In the meantime, Airport Express Air and Rail Company, which has signed a contract with the government to build an electrified passenger rail line between Negombo, a suburb northeast of the Colombo airport, and central Colombo, will spend $5 million on a feasibility study for LRT service in the 42-km (26-mile) rail corridor connecting the two points.

Airport LRT Faces Opposition in St. Paul
An intercity light-rail route now connects Minnesota’s capital, St. Paul, and its next-door neighbor and largest city by a hair, Minneapolis. A bus rapid transit line serving a key north-south corridor in St. Paul is in the works. And now city residents are chewing over four different options for improved transit service between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport via the “Riverview Corridor,” an area paralleling the Mississippi River between the two points.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Photo by Tony Webster)

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that those options are bus rapid transit, a streetcar, a light-rail line in a dedicated lane and a diesel multiple-unit commuter train. The services would run either in West Seventh Street, which parallels the river, or on the Old Pacific Railway spur line, which parallels West Seventh and runs through a residential area.

The Riverview Corridor Policy Advisory Committee recommended the four options for further study, but both the report and the comments on it suggest that there is significant opposition to a light-rail line in West Seventh Street. The West Seventh Street/Fort Road Federation has voted to oppose any transit option that would run in a dedicated lane on West Seventh or prevent left turns from the street.

Also on the record as against such service is former St. Paul City Council Member David Thune, who lives in the area. He told the Pioneer Press that a light-rail line would not only “destroy most of the parking” but also “flush away all [West Seventh’s] assets into the toilet.”

Mike Rogers, transit project manager for the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, told the paper that while the opponents to dedicated-guideway transit options are vocal, overall public opinion is more mixed: “It is definitely not like everyone loves it or everyone hates it,” he said.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: light railbus rapid transitpublic-private partnerships