DALLAS — Maryland has given four construction consortiums until Jan. 9 to prepare bids to design, build, and help finance the $2.4 billion Purple Line commuter rail project.

The group chosen for the 35-year public-private partnership will be expected to invest $500 million to $900 million in the 16-mile light rail system that will serve the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C.

The Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration will select the concessionaire in the spring of 2015. The four finalists were selected in January from six groups that submitted statements of qualifications to the state.

The Purple Line will run east-west inside the Capital Beltway, with 21 stations between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County. It will connect with the Metrorail system operated by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the MARC rail system operated by MTA.

The new line is scheduled to open in 2020 and is expected to serve more than 74,000 riders a day by 2040.

The Federal Transit Administration has recommended the project for a $100 million grant in 2015 and is requesting another $900 million for the Purple Line through its New Starts program. The state will provide between $350 million and $750 million to finance Purple Line construction, with the two counties pledging a total investment of $220 million.

The successful concessionaire will receive annual availability payments from the state of up to $200 million a year for operating and maintaining the light-rail system. The annual payments could be reduced if the operator fails to meet on-time standards and other stipulations.

The availability payments will come from revenue generated on the Purple Line and other systems operated by Maryland Transit Authority. The state will own the land and rail assets of the system, even though the line will be operated and maintained by the private partner.

The Purple Line will be a model for future P3 project in Maryland, said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

"Building the Purple Line as a public-private partnership will allow us to continue our commitment to fiscally responsible budgeting while using the knowledge and skills of the private sector to expand our transportation infrastructure," Brown said.

The consortiums selected to bid on the Purple Line project are: Maryland Purple Line Partners, consisting of VINCI Concessions, Walsh Investors, InfraRed Capital Partners, ALSTOM Transport and Keolis S.A.; Maryland Transit Connectors with John Laing Investments Ltd., Kiewit Development Co., and Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate LLC; Purple Line Transit Partners with Meridiam Infrastructure Purple Line LLC, Fluor Enterprises Inc., and Star America Fund GP LLC; and Purple Plus Alliance LLC Proposer, with partners Macquarie Capital Group and Skanska Infrastructure Development Inc.

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