Light rail in Maryland a hot ticket

John Laing, Meridiam and Vinci are among the contenders keen on the ‘Purple Line’ P3.

Bringing light rail transit (LRT) to Maryland is a project the private sector can get onboard with, judging from early stage procurement.

Transportation officials from the US Mid-Atlantic state are touting a “strong” market appetite for the ‘National Capital Purple Line,’ a proposed 16-mile light rail route primed to be delivered under a public-private partnership (PPP; P3).

Six teams numbering P3 mainstays like John Laing, Macquarie Group, Meridiam Infrastructure and Vinci Concessions submitted to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the Purple Line published in November.

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) will now review the RFQs. MDOT and MTA expect to announce a shortlist of bidders in January before releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) in early summer 2014.

“Our intent is to shortlist as many as four teams to ensure competition and innovation in the Purple Line project,” said Robert Smith, chief executive of the MTA, in a statement.

MDOT and the Administration will jointly select a preferred partner in late 2014 or early 2015. Construction could begin in spring 2015. BMO Capital Markets is advising MDOT and MTA.

The east-west Purple Line would run from the ‘Capital Beltway’ in New Carrolton, Maryland to Bethesda, Maryland, and was conceived along with the ‘Baltimore Red Line,’ a $1.8 billion LRT project. MTA spokesman Terry Owens said procurement for the Red Line has not begun.

The Purple Line PPP is estimated to cost $2.2 billion. Maryland is funding the project with “a combination of federal, state and local government” money.

Both the Purple Line and Red Line P3s came to fruition after Maryland passed its enabling P3 legislation, named the ‘Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013’.

The six consortia that replied to the RFQ for the Purple Line design, build, finance, operate and maintain (DBFOM) concession, are:

-‘M-PG Connect,’ with Plenary Group USA and Bechtel Development Company;

-‘Maryland Purple Line Partners,’ teaming Vinci with Walsh Investors and InfraRed Capital Partners;

-‘Maryland Transit Connectors,’ with John Laing Investments, Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate and Kiewit Development Company;

-‘Purple Line Development Partners,’ combining the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and United Labor Life Insurance Company, or Ullico;

-‘Purple Plus Alliance,’ a consortium of Macquarie Capital and Skanska Infrastructure Development, and;

-‘Purple Line Transit Partners,’ teaming Meridiam, Star America Fund and Fluor.