SILVER SPRING – Three civic leaders said the public-private partnership (P3) building the Purple Line will maximize the likelihood of it being finished on time and within budget.
Three panelists and the Maryland Secretary of Transportation explained the effectiveness of using a P3 on a transit project during a Thursday forum at Montgomery College’s Cultural Arts Center, hosted by the advocacy group Purple Line Now!
Panelists said a P3 is the most efficient, cost effective and least-risky option to connect the New Carrollton and Bethesda Metro stations.
Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn summarized the final steps needed before the Purple Line Transit Partners could begin construction and how a P3 works.
Construction is slated to begin by fall 2016.
Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal (D-At large), Maryland Transit Administration executive director for transit development and delivery Charles Lattuca, and civil engineer Qingbin Cui, said they believe the project will be funded by the state government, the federal governments and the private contractor.
WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro moderated the forum.
Rahn said he was confident in the Purple Line Transit Partners because Fluor Enterprises, one of the member companies of the Purple Line Transit Partners, has worked on the first commuter rail P3 in Colorado, which began transporting riders Friday.
Rahn said Fluor’s involvement in the Purple Line 36 years from start to finish will strengthen the project because Fluor employees will not pass it on to another company, unlike other P3s.
“Now the reason that’s (the long-term commitment) important is that some P3 proposals their intentions are to flip the project- they will build it and flip it and someone else will have to deal with whatever the contractual components are, and whatever the company stepping in in that case does not know (the background and additional details established),” said Rahn. “So having Fluor being a part of the process for the entire contract is a very strong positive.”
Lattuca said, with the P3, the concessionaires would likely be the ones to pay for something taking longer than expected. The state has the “luxury” of knowing “the risk is on them,” he said.
“We have experience with P3s, the results have both been positive,” said Rahn. “We will have a positive experience with the Purple Line and with its delivery and with its performance, because… if we don’t, it’s going to cost (Purple Line Transit Partners) a lot of money.”
Leventhal said in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, there is a need for an east- west transit system because the Metro only runs north and south, and he predicted the Purple Line will have plenty of riders.
Purple Line Now! Board President Ralph Bennett said part of the reason the group hosted the forum was the public wants more information about the project due to a lack of recent public comments by Purple Line Transit Partners.
He said residents near future Purple Line sites said they were concerned about the location of the Purple Line.
“We want to make sure that residents along the line are protected as the contract requires,” said Bennett.
Friends of the Capital Crescent Train filed a lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration and the Maryland Transit Administration in August 2014 regarding concern for environmental impact of the project.
Cui said if the state government manages the project, it will be completed faster. He said a P3 prevents state government from spending all its money on the Purple Line.
Rahn said a meeting between Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker prior to Purple Line Transit Partners being selected seemed to impact Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) decision of whether the state should fund the Purple Line.
Leventhal said Rahn was the “primary reason” Hogan was persuaded to fund the Purple Line. Leventhal, Lattuca and Rahn said they were confident in the Purple Line Transit Partners based on the group’s demonstrated commitment.
The County Council member also pointed out that all four of the top groups chose to remain in the bidding process after Hogan said he was doubtful as to whether the project would come to fruition.
When the bidders were told they would have to demonstrate they could save hundreds of millions of dollars in their approach, they spent time and money writing detailed proposals in response to the request for proposal.
“(That) says to me they believed it would be successful and profitable to them,” said Leventhal.