DALLAS - Six potential private-sector partners responded to Maryland's proposal to fund, build and operate a $2.2 billion light rail commuter line under the state's newly adopted public-private partnership law.

The request for qualifications for the 16-mile Purple Line was issued in November after the state Board of Public Works approved the state's plan calling for a single partner that will be responsible for providing up to $900 million of private financing to design, build, operate and maintain the project.

The deadline for submissions was Dec. 10. The line will link Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland.

The successful concessionaire will receive availability payments from the state of $100 million to $200 million a year for up to 45 years.

Funding will include $750 million from the state's Transportation Trust Fund through 2019, $110 million each from the two counties, and a federal transportation loan of $900 million sought by the state.

The six responses from teams of local, national and international firms indicate strong interest in the Purple Line, said Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr. The project is the first transit P3 to be authorized under the enabling legislation that passed in the 2013 legislative session.

"Thanks to the hard work of Gov. (Martin) O'Malley, Lt. Gov. (Anthony) Brown and General Assembly in passing the new P3 law and the Transportation Investment Act, the private sector has heard loud and clear that Maryland is open for business and serious about getting the Purple Line built," Smith said.

The Purple Line will run east-west inside the Capital Beltway between Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County. The 21 stations will provide direct connections to three existing Metrorail lines operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, three lines of the MARC commuter rail system, and Amtrak passenger train service.

A short list of three to four teams from the six proposals will be chosen in January after a review of the applicants by the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration.

"Our intent is to short list as many as four teams to ensure competition and innovation in the Purple Line project," said MTA chief Robert L. Smith.

Those on the short list will be asked to submit a formal proposal by summer 2014, with selection of the preferred partner on the project by late 2014 or early 2015. Construction could begin later in 2015 with completion by 2020.

The teams include: M-PG Connect LLC with Plenary Group USA Ltd. and Bechtel Development Co. Inc.; Maryland Purple Line Partners with VINCI Concessions, Walsh Investors, InfraRed Capital Partners, ALSTOM Transport and Keolis S.A.; and Maryland Transit Connectors with John Laing Investments Ltd., Kiewit Development Co., and Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate LLC.

Also included are: Purple Line Development Partners with CSCEC and United Labor Life Insurance Co. Inc..; 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 Macquarie Capital Group and Skanska Infrastructure Development Inc.

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