Maryland officially approved the Public-Private-Partnership contract for the Purple Line on April 6.  Meanwhile, however, our citizens lawsuit is in full swing, and our arguments have not been weakened by Maryland’s recent decision. Here are the latest news:

 

(1) At $5.6billion, the Purple Line contract approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works constitutes a nearly 40% increase in fixed obligations, or de facto debt  – one of the largest ever in Maryland history.  The full costs of the Purple Line are likely to increase, and the revenue sources for the Purple Line “availability payments” over the next 36 years remain questionable.  Even under the state’s own optimistic ridership forecasts, fare revenue would cover only about 30% of the costs of the guaranteed payments to the private concessionaire.  And the private concessionaire will be paid even if the riders don’t show up.

 

(2) Where will the money come from? What will be the impact on Maryland’s de facto debt, on taxpayers, and on funding for the other transportation needs of the county, state and region?  In a Purple Line shell game that robs Peter to pay Paul, Maryland has revealed that it plans to pay part of the Purple Line contract with MARC train funding and to repay MARC with money from the state transportation fund.  Many other questions about the impacts of the  “availability payments” for the Purple Line remain unanswered.  For a detailed list and discussion of questions that loom over Maryland’s finances and our regional transportation system as a result of this contract, see: 

 

— the letter  sent to each member of the Board of Public Works on March 15 by Jean Cavanaugh of Silver Spring, economist Frank Lysy, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, Sligo Creek Neighbors for a Sustainable Community, Inc., and a number of concerned citizens, and 

 

— the statement  prepared for the Board of Public Works meeting on April 6 by Jean Cavanaugh on behalf of the same.  

 

(3) The full federal funding agreement for Purple Line is still not secured, and the P3 contract acknowledges that fact.  Before Congress adjourns on July 15, its primary focus will be on passing the FY’17 federal agency appropriations bills.  House tea party members may seek to reduce FY17 federal funding – including for transportation programs -, which, if successful, could result in cuts in funding for the Purple Line or the whole class of New Start Light Rail projects.  Another possibility is that the Congress or even Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will realize that local funds are needed more to fix Metro, the DC Circulator, and to complete the Silver Line, and should be shifted away from the Purple Line or New Starts in general and toward fixing Metro and other transit systems in the DC area and around the country. 

 

(4) Montgomery County approves yet more money for the Purple Line: At a work session on April 4th, the Montgomery County Council agreed to fund the South Bethesda Purple Line station at $113M (double the cost previously estimated) and the Capital Crescent Trail and the Green Trail in Silver Spring in addition to sending to the State of Maryland an additional $40M for the Purple Line. It’s still unclear how much the County would end up paying for the South Bethesda Purple Line station, since the concessionaire’s estimate is based on using the current APEX building but a developer, Carr, plans to finalize purchase of the APEX building in May and demolish it. The concessionaire estimated much lower costs for the Capital Crescent and Green Trails. However, it was apparent at that meeting that neither MTA nor the County’s DOT knew how the concessionaire reduced the CCT cost by 39% and the Green Trail cost by 54%.

 

 (5) The pace of our citizens’ lawsuit about the Purple Line intensifies.   We have one month, until May 10, to respond to the reply briefs of both MTA and FTA, which MTA and FTA filed on April 11 in response to Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail’s opening brief filed on February 19.  MTA is deploying a massive array of technical and legal resources, and has retained additional private sector lawyers to supplement the agencies’ team.  On our side, we must continue with our lean strategy based on volunteer research and leadership, and our lean but expert legal team. 

 

(6) Volunteers needed NOW for this push to the finish! Please contact us at info@savethetrail.org to help organize our next “Friendraiser and Fundraiser” to support the citizens’ lawsuit that is giving voice to over 25,000 individual citizens and families who have signed petitions, sent letters, or filed comments opposing or with concerns about the Purple Line. If you can’t volunteer, please make a donation.