DALLAS -- The cost of Maryland's Purple Line rail project has risen to $2.45 billion, up $21 million since September and almost $1.5 billion more than projected in 2007, according to the latest estimate by the Maryland Transit Administration.

The price tag on the light-rail system that will arc across the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., went up $220 million in January 2014 to $2.37 billion, and then another $56 million was added to the expected construction costs last month.

State transportation officials provided the latest cost outlook in a briefing last week to elected officials in Montgomery County, where 10 of the planned 21 stations will be located. Passenger service on the 16-mile system, which will run inside the I-495 Capital Beltway from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County, could begin in 2020.

Each month that the Purple Line is delayed adds $7 million of inflationary costs to the project, said Jamie Kendrick, MTA's deputy executive director of transit development.

The cost of building the Purple Line was projected at $1 billion when it was proposed in June 2007. The expected construction costs rose to $1.5 billion in August 2009, to $1.9 billion in September 2011, and to $2.2 billion a year later.

The $220 million increase posted at the beginning of 2014 reflected higher land acquisition costs and higher finance charges, MTA said.

The Maryland Board of Public Works will select a private partner in 2015 that is expected to invest up to $900 million in the Purple Line in exchange for the concession to operate and maintain the system for 35 years.

The successful concessionaire will receive availability payments of up to $200 million a year, which can be used to repay a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan of up to $732 million that the state is seeking.

Maryland also wants an allocation of tax-exempt private activity bonds for the Purple Line project from a federal transportation-only program that is not subject to state volume caps.

The availability payments will come from the revenue generated on the Purple Line and other systems operated by MTA. The state will own the land and rail assets of the rail system that will be operated and maintained by the private partner.

The Federal Transit Administration gave the go-ahead in late August to advanced engineering work on the Purple Line, which is the final stage before full funding of the project. The Purple Line will receive a $100 million New Starts grant from the FTA in fiscal 2015, with another $800 million expected with the final approval. -30--

Funding will also include $360 million to $760 million from the state's transportation fund, $240 million from the two counties, and between $500 million and $900 million from the private partner.

The cost estimate from FTA includes $126 million of finance charges.

Proposals from the four construction consortiums on the short list for the project are due by Jan. 9, 2015. Final selection is expected in the spring.

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