Despite the Purple Line’s uncertain financial future, County Executive Ike Leggett Friday said he’s “90 percent-plus” certain the 16-mile light-rail will be built “in a reasonable period of time.”
Leggett made the prediction on Friday’s Kojo Nnamdi radio show after politics analyst Tom Sherwood asked him to put a percentage on the likeliness of the project getting built.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced last month that the state would move ahead with the estimated $2.16 billion project, which would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, but that the state’s contribution upfront would be $500 million less.
The exact cost of the project—and the details of who pays what—may not be settled until January, when the state is set to pick a winning bid from four private concessionaires competing to build and operate the system.
Many have expressed skepticism over how the state, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, will plug the gap in construction costs left by Hogan’s decision.
The federal government is expected to contribute $900 million toward the project and the private concessionaire might need to provide more than $600 million in upfront costs that would be paid back over time after the Purple Line opens.
Leggett told The Washington Post Thursday that the county is preparing to add $40 million to its Purple Line contribution, which already sat at $177 million. Leggett said he told Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn last week that the county could provide the extra money if it could wait for five or six years.
To find the $40 million, Leggett said he’ll suggest “reprioritizing” the county’s six-year capital budget, which could mean delays for other county construction projects. Any funding shifts would have to be approved by the county council.
“Having to pay some additional money is not something we do lightly, but given the scope of the project, given the necessity of the project, given that it’s our number one priority, I think it is in the county’s and the public’s interest,” Leggett said on the radio show Friday.
Leggett also said “I think we’re much closer than you realize,” when asked about how difficult it could be for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to increase their Purple Line contributions.
“If you have this spread out over a long period of time, I don’t think that there will be a problem from the local communities ultimately finding a way to make this happen,” Leggett said.
Leggett said he also believes the federal government will come through with the $900 million.
He told The Washington Post he plans to submit a plan for providing the $40 million this fall.
Construction on the Purple Line could begin in May 2016.
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