The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Purple Money

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The largest public-private partnership (P3) in the U.S. is expected to start construction by the end of the year sits just outside the Capital Beltway in Maryland.  What Maryland calls the Purple Line, we consider a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Purple Line was first estimated to cost around $2 billion to construct, operate, and maintain.  Since then, the costs for the light rail project have more than doubled to $5.6 billion. These figures only account for construction, operating, and maintenance costs, while completely disregarding the $447 million (estimated) in additional costs outside of the contract, such as off-site environmental mitigation, right-of-way acquisition, utilities, Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) final design reviews, and MTA’s construction oversight.

Moreover, under the P3 contract, MTA retains the risk of changes in electricity prices during the operations and maintenance phase of the contract; based on current rates, electricity will cost around $2.5 million per year.

In addition to the $225.2 million needed for planning, engineering, and right-of-way acquisition, public contributions for the construction of the Purple Line total $1.4 billion; $933 million (federal); $160 million (state); $210 million (Montgomery County); and $120 million (Prince George’s County). More importantly, these numbers do not take into consideration that taxpayers in Montgomery County will be left footing the bill of associated improvements, such as: $110 million for the Bethesda Metro Station south entrance; $59 million for the Capital Crescent Trail; and $1 million for the Silver Spring Green Trail.

The burden imposed by the Purple Line far exceeds the purported benefits of this so-called transportation necessity.

It is unfortunate that Governor Hogan along side the Board of Public Works voted to proceed with the Purple Line, despite the overwhelming evidence against its viability. Maryland taxpayers will once again be on the hook for another wasteful government project.

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