DALLAS — The Maryland Transit Administration will delay the deadline for private-sector bids on its $2.45 billion Purple Line light-rail project for two months to give newly elected Gov. Larry Hogan time to evaluate the proposed public-private partnership.
The bids from the four international consortiums on the selected short list are now due March 12 rather than Jan. 9 as originally scheduled.
Hogan, a Republican, will be sworn in Jan. 21 to replace Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, who could not run for a third term.
The proposed route of the 16-mile light rail line spans the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County.
The Purple Line system includes 21 stations will connect with the Maryland spokes of the Metrorail system operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority as well as Amtrak's passenger rail service.
The light rail line could be operational by 2020 if construction gets under way as scheduled in late 2015.
The successful consortium will invest $500 million to $900 million in the Purple Line in exchange for the concession to operate and maintain the system for 35 years.
The 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 being sought by the state.
Hogan, an avowed opponent of the Purple Line and the $2.9 billion Red Line rail proposal in Baltimore, defeated his Democratic opponent Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in an upset in November by a 51.4% to 46.9% margin. Brown supported state funding for the rail projects.
Hogan said during the campaign that preferred spending transportation dollars on roads rather than the rail transit projects. He said he would cancel the two rail projects but later softened the stance enough to say the Red and Purple lines are "worth considering."
Hogan said after the election that he would not discuss transportation or other issues in public during the transition, and has maintained that silence.
"I'm going to be governor Jan. 21, and we will start talking about policy then," he said at a recent event.
The change in bid dates will not affect the overall project schedule, said Gayle Watkins, a spokeswoman for Maryland Transit Administration.
"We did this to give the incoming administration more time to evaluate this complex project," she said. "In the meantime, we are continuing with the solicitation process, right-of-way acquisitions, and agreements."
The Maryland Board of Public Works had been expected to pick the private partner in spring 2015.
The four selected bidders were told in mid-November that the proposals would be pushed back at least a month, Watkins said. The official notification of the March 12 deadline extension went to the bidders on Nov. 25.
The losing bidders will receive $2 million from the state for participating in the process. Maryland officials said the reimbursement was necessary to ensure adequate private sector competition for the rail project.
Funding for the Purple Line in addition to the TIFIA loan and the private partner's contribution will include a $100 million New Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration in fiscal 2015, with another $800 million of the federal grants later. Local funding will include up to $760 million from the state transportation fund and $240 million from the two counties.
Maryland also is seeking an allocation for the Purple Line project of special transportation-dedicated private-activity bonds that are not limited by state volume caps.