U.S. DOT to loan $1.76 billion to Purple Line Light Rail Transit Project in Maryland

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
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The first assembled Purple Line light rail vehicle.
Maryland DOT

After navigating some choppy air during the past several years, the Maryland Purple Line project received a much-needed boost from the U.S. DOT.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that its Build America Bureau (Bureau) has provided up to a $1.76 billion low-interest loan to Purple Line Transit Partners for the Purple Line Light Rail Transit Project in Maryland. The loan will finance up to 33 percent of the $5.9 billion in eligible project costs. The Bureau helps communities across the country deliver infrastructure projects by providing Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, known as TIFIA loans, and other types of innovative financing.

“The Purple Line will provide faster, more direct, and more reliable transit service for the suburban Maryland and DC region’s residents and visitors while easing congestion on local roads,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “By cutting an estimated 17,000 vehicle trips each day and operating using electric power, this project has tremendous environmental benefits as well.”

Purple Line train side view (Maryland DOT)

Currently under construction, the Purple Line is a 16.2-mile, 21-station, east-west light rail transit line that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. Five major activity centers (Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma-Langley Park, College Park, and New Carrollton) will connect with 16 other stations that serve residential communities, commercial districts, and institutional establishments. The project will provide direct connections to four branches of the existing Metrorail system, all three MARC commuter rail lines and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line.  The project will also include completion of the Capital Crescent Trail supporting bicyclists and pedestrians.

“The much-anticipated Purple Line will serve areas that will benefit from associated economic development, while creating opportunities for transit-oriented development,” said Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian. “We worked closely with our partners to finalize this loan, which is an essential piece of the financing to move this critical project forward.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration is working under a Public Private Partnership Agreement (P3 agreement) with Purple Line Transit Partners to design, build, operate, and maintain the light rail system for 35 years. The new loan replaces a previous $874.6 million loan closed in June 2016.

The Build America Bureau was established as a “one-stop-shop” during the Obama Administration to help states and other project sponsors carry out infrastructure projects. The Bureau offers low-interest, long-term credit programs, technical assistance, and best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and operation. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden in November 2021, expands project eligibility for the Bureau’s TIFIA credit program and extends maturity of the loans, giving borrowers additional flexibility. To date, the DOT has closed more than $37.7 billion in TIFIA financings, supporting more than $130 billion in infrastructure investment across the country.

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