SEABROOK – While Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has committed to providing an additional $40 million to the Maryland Department of Transportation for the Purple Line project, Prince George’s County officials say they still do not know how much they will be able to commit to the cause.
County Executive Rushern Baker III said the county remains in negotiations with MDOT and the requests the county has previously made are still under review.
"There are still on-going discussions with MDOT and their staff assigned to thePurpleLine. We have had several good discussions with MDOT staff over the past few weeks about funding and other issues of importance to Prince George’s County,” Baker said. “MDOT staff is reviewing our requests. We have not reached an agreement on the county’s contribution.”
According to a letter issued from MDOT Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, Leggett committed to spending an additional $50 million on the Purple Line. Because of financial hardships in Montgomery County, Rahn said, the supplemental funding would be lowered to $40 million.
“I must stress that the Purple Line Project will not move forward without the additional support requested from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties,” Rahn said. “I believe the long-term benefits from the Purple Line Light Rail Project will repay the counties total investment many times over in economic growth and future improved mobility for the region.”
According to Deputy Chief Administrative Office of Finance Tom Himler, the county is still trying to find out how much specific funding the state wants the county to contribute. The county is aware of the contribution Montgomery County will make, he said, but it may not necessarily serve as a starting point for Prince George’s County negotiations.
“We have our own unique situation over here, in some capacity, than Montgomery does. We’re still in the dialogue with the state and trying to get comfortable with the contribution that we can make and what the state is asking for,” Himler said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll reach an agreement soon on it. But we have a little more fiscal challenges than Montgomery does.”
All of the other projects the county is currently working on, including the proposed Regional Medical Center; MGM Grand at the National Harbor; attracting the FBI to Prince George’s County; I-95/495 interchange improvements and other development, are being considered in these negotiations according to Himler.
“We’re getting close to our debt limit and our ability to keep issuing new debt. These projects obviously influence and put additional pressure on this,” Himler said. “As we told the secretary of transportation, the Purple Line will be the largest project, other than the hospital, that we finance from our end. So it’s a pretty big deal.”
The county has many “big things” coming up, Himler said, and that is why making additional contributions for the Purple Line has not been an easy process. However, he said, the Purple Line remains a critical priority for the county and they will do “whatever is necessary” to fund the project because of all of the economic benefits that could come from it.
The county is still going to figure out a way to get their larger projects funded, Himler said, because of the potential economic benefits that could come from them. The county has been clear, he said, on what projects they have made their priorities and they will continue to fund those projects.
“We’re going to have to move some things around. We’re trying to figure out a way to move this along but we have to be mindful of what we invest and what we’ll get in return from it,” Himler said.
The county remains committed to funding the Regional Medical Center, he said, and are still looking into the state’s request for the I-95/495 infrastructure funding. The county believes that request could possibly be a misunderstanding, Himler said, because the state may not have been aware that the county already planned to improve the infrastructure in that area as they work for a commitment from the FBI.
Teams in the procurement solicitation are awaiting indications from both counties on what their contribution may be, Rahn said, before they reengage in proposal preparations.
Previously, both counties were asked to take on 10 percent of the cost of the light rail project traveling from New Carrollton to Bethesda would have been $2.45 billion. The federal government is expected to make a $900 million contribution in addition to state and local contributions.
Cost saving measures taken by the state earlier this summer, according to Governor Larry Hogan, will bring the state contribution down from a previous $700 million total to just $168 million in total. There were no specifications on the amount expected from each county.
The state and the county would like to have the issue resolved “as soon as they can,” Himler said. The two sides are getting closer to an agreement, he said, but there are still things that need to be resolved. The state is asking for “a particular amount” from the county, Himler said, but he would not disclose the amount they are exactly asking for.