Rahn Predicts Delay for Purple Line Opening

State transportation secretary says light-rail project on track to open later than expected in 2022


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A Purple Line project schedule previously released on the Purple Line website. The projected opening is expected to be delayed.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn revealed Thursday that the state is anticipating a delay in opening the Purple Line.

The state has projected that the light-rail line will open in the spring of 2022, but Rahn said the delay will likely mean it opens later that year.

Rahn attributed the delay to the environmental lawsuit that pushed back the start of construction by about six months. Construction was initially scheduled to begin at the end of 2016, but didn’t begin until August, when a federal court reinstated the project’s environmental approval in the court case.

The court case has since been resolved. The federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of the project in December.

Rahn mentioned the delay during a speech he gave Thursday at an event hosted by the pro-transit group Purple Line Now at Montgomery College’s Silver Spring campus.

“We know we’ll have to accommodate some delay,” Rahn said. He did not know how long the delay would be, but the state hopes to determine that in the next couple of months.

“I do not anticipate [the delay] to be one year, I believe it will be less than that,” Rahn said. “I remain hopeful that it will continue to remain in 2022 somewhere.”

The 16.2-mile project is being constructed between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The state estimates it will cost $2.4 billion to construct and the project is being funded through a $5.6 billion, 36-year contract with the state’s private partner, Purple Line Transit Partners.

Purple Line Transit Partners is designing and constructing the project and will then operate and maintain it during the life of the contract.

Rahn said Thursday that Purple Line design is 75 percent complete and construction would ramp up significantly this year.

So far, work has focused on cutting down trees along the former Georgetown Branch Trail in Montgomery County and utility relocation along the route. Rahn said about 375 engineers and other workers are building and designing the line, but the workforce is expected to grow to 1,500 later this year.

“These are good jobs. These are well-paying jobs,” Rahn said.

The state is projecting about 59,000 riders per day will use the line when it first opens, then increase to about 74,000 riders by 2040, according to Rahn. He estimated the Purple Line also will transfer about 7,000 riders per day to Metro.

Rahn also described how the state is using the $900 million in federal money approved to build the project. He said the state has received $325 million in federal funds and spent about $200 million so far. The state expects to receive about $100 million to $125 million per year as Congress appropriates the remaining funds.

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