Maryland Purple Line gets $874.6M TIFIA loan

The consortium of private-sector companies that recently won a $5.6 billion contract to build and operate the Maryland Purple Line light-rail project has been awarded an $874.6 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The funds will be used to help defray the costs of the 16.2 mile project that will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. The east-west line will also include 21 stations.

In making the announcement of the loan, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the new rail line will offer an alternative form of transportation that will allow residents along the line “improved access to jobs, education and medical care and, overall, will help improve the quality of life.”

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials also are working with the Maryland Transit Authority to secure an additional $900 million toward the project through the FTA Capital Investment Grant Program. Another $36 million in FTA grant funds will also be appropriated for the project.

Calling the Purple Line a “unique public-private partnership” that allows the state to leverage additional federal funding, FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers added, “The Purple Line will help residents access one of the state’s largest job centers as well as its flagship state university without having to drive on heavily congested roads.”

Amtrak pitches $6.5B redevelopment in Philadelphia

Last week, officials with Amtrak, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Drexel University jointly announced plans for a $6.5 billion redevelopment in Central Philadelphia. The goal of the project is to create a second downtown area of the city, according to those officials. The project would be centered around the transformation of the 30th Street Train Station into a multi-modal transportation hub. The station would continue to serve as the main Amtrak intercity rail station for the region, but it also would become the primary intercity bus terminal.

A new facility would be constructed on the station’s north side to serve as the bus station, and that construction would require the relocation of exit ramps connecting Interstates 76 and 676 to the station. That portion of the project is already undergoing a feasibility study.

Another construction project would build a new underground concourse to connect the SEPTA subway station at 30th Street to the Amtrak station. The concourse project is in the preliminary engineering stage.

Amtrak also plans to create a new gateway park surrounding the station along the Schuylkill River.

New York State approves $27B MTA improvement plan

New York State’s Capital Plan Review Board last week approved a five-year, $27 billion plan for New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). It represents the largest infrastructure investment in the agency’s history, according to state officials. The capital program will renovate 31 subway stations and add 18 miles of track to a segment of the Long Island Railroad (LIRR).

The station projects will be built using the design-build delivery method. The MTA board will issue a Request for Statements of Qualifications (RSQ) on the renovations to the subway stations shortly, with the contracts to be awarded in the fall.

The renovations will include design enhancements like improved lighting and more intuitive signage that will make it easier for riders to navigate stations. The renovated stations also will provide improved communications access with cellular connectivity and Wi-Fi availability. The two-step RSQ process will identify design-build teams by early summer, and those companies will submit proposals for station renovation packages beginning in July.

New York’s Port Authority to get $10 billion remake

Photo of Port Authority by Rob Young licensed under CC BY 2.0

Manhattan’s 65-year-old bus terminal to be replaced, design deadline set for Sept. 2016

Building in Manhattan is always going to be expensive, and so there’s little surprise that replacing the world’s busiest bus station on the nation’s priciest island isn’t cheap. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced last week a design competition to replace its bus terminal, currently located at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.

The project could cost as much as $10 billion.

The Port Authority two years ago formed a committee to study how best to replace the terminal, and that committee’s recommendation is to construct the new one just west of the current location, between 9th and 11th avenues. The committee also recommended keeping the current terminal operational during construction in an effort to lessen disruption to commuters as much as possible. The current Port Authority bus terminal served 66 million bus passenger trips in 2014, a figure that is above its operating capacity.

Last week’s vote by the Board of Commissioners set up an international design contest with a deadline of September 2016.

Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye described the effort to replace the terminal as “an unbelievably complicated project, with construction being done at the crossroads of the world, at the site of some of the most important and expensive real estate in the world.”

The study committee came up with three configurations for the new terminal, but the groups participating in the design competition will be free to build on those or to dismiss them totally. Designers are also able to go with the location proposed by the committee or to recommend an alternative.

While a financing mechanism hasn’t been determined yet, the current terminal location will likely be sold to developers upon completion of its replacement, and those funds will go toward the project’s considerable costs.

“We’ve taken an important first step today,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan of the board’s vote. “We still have a lot of work to do. We’re going to have to find the money for this project, and for other projects that are being presented to the board.”

The Port Authority also is planning to construct a $20 billion commuter-rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River and has requested the federal government fund half of that project.