New federal loan for Purple Line is a big step toward reboot, lawmakers say

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved a $1.7 billion loan to help get the beleaguered Purple Line get back on track, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation announced on Thursday.

The loan is a significant step toward completion of a restructured financing package made necessary by the departure of the project’s primary subcontractor 18 months ago.

Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC) quit the 16.2-mile light rail project in 2020 after a long battle with the Maryland Transit Administration over cost overruns. The agency recruited a newly formed consortium, Maryland Transit Solutions, to take PLTC’s place in January, and state leaders then approved a new contract to enable work on the New Carrollton-to-Bethesda line to fully resume in the coming weeks.

The loan announced Thursday is through the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and represents a major piece of the $9.3 billion project’s restructured financing.

“Marylanders have been waiting with anticipation for years for the completion of the Purple Line,” said Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Steny Hoyer, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, all Democrats, in a statement. “This new federal loan is a critical piece of the financing to move the Purple Line’s construction forward after previous setbacks for the project.”

Under its revamped agreement with the state, Purple Line Transit Partners will design, build and operate the system until 2056.

A long-planned light-rail project that will connect inner-Beltway communities in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and provide links to Metrorail and MARC, the Purple Line is about half finished. It will have 21 stations, including several near the University of Maryland in College Park, when it is complete.

The line originally was expected to begin service this year, but that has been deferred to 2026 due to a number of factors, including the PLTC dispute, which ended in litigation, as well as another lawsuit, permitting delays and design changes.

The cost has ballooned from the original $5.6 billion to $9.3 billion.

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