In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:
- Matching Campaign is Drawing to a Close
- Purple Line in the News
- Features & Highlights
- Bidding Farewell to Gregory Slater
- Construction News
- The Top Ten Purple Line Stories of 2021!
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WHAT'S HAPPENING AT PLN?
We are not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag just yet -- but you all REALLY stepped up to help us get closer to our goal of raising $5,000 through a matching campaign! We will have the final numbers and a full list of our generous donors for you in the next newsletter, but please know how grateful we are for your financial support. Thank you, thank you! While our matching campaign is ending, Purple Line NOW continues to operate because of your generosity. If you didn't have a chance to donate before the end of the year and would like to do so now, just click the purple button below.
We use every donation we receive to continue our newsletter, continue offering regular webinars, continue being a strong liaison to help connect you to people who can solve your issues, and continue our strong advocacy for the project in every way possible. If you would like to know more about who we are, why we are asking for donations, and what we do with your gift once it arrives on our doorstep, you can read all about it in our November newsletter.
THE PURPLE LINE IN THE NEWS
DePuyt, Bruce. "Slater to depart MDOT in January." Maryland Matters, 30 Dec. 2021
FEATURES & HIGHLIGHTS
As you may have read, Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation, Greg Slater is set to leave the position later this month. Governor Larry Hogan has named his successor, James F. Ports Jr., the executive director of the Maryland Transportation Authority.
We are grateful for Secretary Slater’s steady hand during a tumultuous time for the Purple Line project. His hard work and public dedication helped steer the team through the loss of the previous builder and ultimately naming the new builder just this past fall. Many of you may remember his willingness to show up when asked to answer tough questions, as he did for our forum last year. We wish him all of the best in his new position and thank him for all he has done for the Purple Line, our communities, and our state.
A Look Back at 2021
As Purple Line NOW News heads into its fourth year of publication, we know our annual round-up of Top Ten Purple Line stories is one of our readers' favorites!
On the surface, as we awaited the announcement of a new builder, it may have seemed like a quiet year with regard to the project, but in reality, with crews working on nearly every inch of the future path, the Operations and Management Facility up and very nearly complete, and lots of work behind the scenes to inform the potential bidders so they could submit competing bids, the year was an active one for the line.
Although at times construction woes and traffic disruptions made for intermittent frustrations, as we closed out 2021, there was lots of good news to celebrate, too, not the least of which was the end to the lawsuits that have plagued the project for the last few years!
See if you agree with our selection of the Top Ten Purple Line stories for 2021 below. If you think we’ve forgotten one, send us a line or two at [email protected]. And, if you have any future predictions, send them along, as well!
Here are the biggest stories (with lots of links if you would like to read further!) we believe had an impact on the project:
10. Maryland Transit Administrator and Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation Leave Posts
On the state level, two key Purple Line staff left their positions. Kevin Quinn announced his resignation back in early summer and the late-breaking news of the impending departure of Greg Slater, Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation in just a few weeks. We appreciated Kevin’s hard work during a difficult time for the project and grateful to learn his replacement, Holly Arnold, was named permanent Administrator not long after his leaving. We haven’t yet had time to process Greg Slater’s departure, but he will certainly be missed here in our neck of the woods. His work on the project during a tumultuous time is commendable and as we wrote above, Purple Line NOW is deeply appreciative of his hard work.
9. Three Builders Shortlisted for Final Competition
In early spring, we learned three competitors were chosen to move on to the final stage to replace the builder who left in the previous year. Those bids came from: Halmar International, Maryland Transit Solutions, and Tutor-Perini. This was an important step, although there was still work left to do as extra time was granted to each of the firms to gather additional information and research before submitting their final brief to the state in early autumn.
8. Good News for Small Businesses
Although any one of these likely business-friendly items merits its own place on our Top Ten list, collectively, they spell good news for businesses along the corridor. First, the Maryland Purple Line project management office stood up a Business Engagement Team earlier last summer.
Next, we received news Senate Bill 199/House Bill 114, sponsored by Sens. McCray and Zucker (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Lierman (D-Baltimore City), would extend portions of the Maryland Metro/Transit Funding Act to increase operations and capital spending for MTA. Additionally, the bill would establish a $2 Million Purple Line Construction Zone Grant Program which would be administered through the Department of Commerce to assist small businesses. This amount comes on top of $231,000 appropriated by the Montgomery County Council in the late November.
7. Capital Crescent Trail Plans
The Montgomery County Planning Board in mid-October gave a detailed briefing on the two-stage plan for the Capital Crescent Trail crossing and possible tunnel at Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. The Capital Crescent Trail breezeway is in the #4 slot on the Montgomery Planning Board's top 100 capital program list, one of four Purple Line related improvements. In previous years, cost estimates have risen for the tunnel, and a funding source has not yet been identified for it. However, with the passage of the federal infrastructure bill, there are additional opportunities for funding. Throughout the year, pedestrian and bicycle safety has been an important issue in both Montgomery and Prince George's county and will be all the more important as construction ramps up under the new builder.
6. Economic Development Around the Corridor
A number of development-oriented stories made us smile this year, including the groundbreaking at the Crescent at Chevy Chase Lake apartment building in October. The project is across the street from a Purple Line station and will include connections to the Capital Crescent Trail. As Maryland cited, this project is part of $2 billion in transit-oriented development along the Purple Line corridor.
The New Carrollton Economic Development Strategy is now complete and available online! This completed PAMC project highlights steps the city can take to support existing businesses and attract new ones.
And, on the topic of ensuring that the Purple Line’s benefits are widespread, elected officials and advocates are joining forces to help small businesses make it through construction while safeguarding 17,000 units of affordable housing.
5. Board of Public Works Approves Funding for Purple Line Consultants & Prepays Bond
In early June, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved $183.5 million for consultants to continue managing many of the 150 contracts the state took over when the former builder left the project. The approval was not considered a cost increase because it was already in the budget for work that the former builder would have done (and been paid for.)
In September, the state announced it would also be prepaying a $313 million private activity bond to smooth the way for the selection process. Secretary Slater explained that “every activity we do under this new contract authority is an activity that won’t be included in the costs when the new builder is hired. This funding will move the process along and reduce risk."
4. Construction on Purple Line Continues
This may seem like a no-brainer, but after the former builder left the project in 2020, whether or not construction would continue while the state regrouped and decided what happened next was not a sure thing. The past year saw huge gains in relocating the majority of utilities (and that is a massive undertaking on a project of this size), the delivery of 29,000 rail ties, the Campus Drive pump house completed, and the lights turned on at the Glenridge Operations and Management Facility, among many other construction highlights. All of these were important accomplishments to attract a quality builder. Want to see more of what was accomplished construction-wise? View this cool wrap-up of the year from the state.
3. Additional Railcars Acquired
This little sliver of news was casually slipped into conversation during Maryland’s Transportation road show last fall, but our ears perked right up when we learned that the state had acquired additional railcars for the Purple Line. Why is this important? Secretary Slater said that the additional railcars will “position us to offer a high level of service” and they will help reduce headways (time spent waiting on a train to come), as well. We call that a big win!
2. Purple Line NOW Forum
Not to toot our own horn too much (okay, maybe just a little), we were thrilled to offer to the public at no charge, a virtual forum which featured a thorough update from Gregory Slater, Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation. Along with Secretary Slater, the new CEO of the Purple Line Transit Partners, Doran Bosso joined us, as did Matt Pollack from MTA’s Purple Line Team. We were thrilled to have additional reports from representatives of both counties, Maricela Cordova Garcia (Montgomery County) and Vic Weissberg (Prince George’s County). Secretary Slater took a moment to speak to the importance of citizen advocacy, saying, “Working together to make such projects a success is critical, not just here in the national capital region, but in Maryland as a whole.”
1. New Builder Chosen!
Not much of a surprise here, but our top news story -- the news we all had been waiting for since late 2020 -- finally came through! Just before Thanksgiving, we received word that a new builder had been chosen! We extend a warm welcome to Maryland Transit Solutions (MTS) which is comprised of Dragados USA and OHL USA. This selection will be forwarded to the Maryland Board of Public Works for final approval any day now.
As we start the new year with lots more milestones to reach (what will next year’s top ten look like? Any guesses?!), we wish each of you best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy new year. Thank you for all of your support!