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Purple Line FFGA Signing & Groundbreaking

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao
Purple Line FFGA Signing & Groundbreaking
Takoma Park, Maryland
Monday, August 28, 2017


Good morning, everyone.  And thank you, Secretary Peter Rahn, for that introduction.

I would like to pause for a moment to say that our hearts are with Texans who endured the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey this past weekend. 

We want the people of Texas to know that their fellow Americans stand behind them.  The Department has been in touch with Governor Abbott. I have mobilized the men and women of the Department of Transportation to provide whatever assistance Texas requires to restore the state’s transportation system. Helping each other is a basic American value we all share.

Thank you, Governor Hogan, for your leadership in getting the Purple Line project to where it is today, which will benefit the people of Maryland. Please give our best to First Lady Yumi Hogan, who we adore.

Let me also acknowledge Senator Van Hollen, Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Brown, County Executives Baker and Leggett, and representatives from the Purple Line Transit Partners. I also see State Senator Susan Lee. Thank you for your support along the way.

Today is a proud day for Maryland.  I am so pleased to be here at today’s ceremonial signing ceremony and groundbreaking. Today we are kicking off another example of what Americans do when they work together.  This will be the future operations center for the Purple Line.  It will be a significant step toward improving the quality of life for the people of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.

The signing of the Full Funding Grant Agreement will provide $900 million toward the total cost of the Purple Line. Combining U.S. Department of Transportation assistance with private funds, this project is well on its way to transforming public transit in suburban Maryland. It is a public private partnership which brings private resources into the mass transit system. 

When it is finished, commuters will take an estimated 41,000 daily trips.  By 2035 that could increase to more than 56,000 daily trips.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that this project alone will create more than 52,000 direct and indirect jobs – in not just the construction of the line but also in the economic development that follow new transportation hubs.

I hope that other states will look to the example Maryland has set in bringing other resources to the table when creating the Purple Line transit project. This project was successful because the state took the right steps during the planning process to make it a sound investment. 

I want to underscore several aspects of this project.  First, it will be supported by a partnership with a private entity. The $5.6 billion contract between MDOT and the Purple Line Transit Partners will be used to design, build and operate the light rail line. Public private partnerships – or P3s as they are called – are widely used throughout the world to fund innovative infrastructure projects.

Public private partnerships are relatively new in the U.S., but they hold great potential to help rebuild and revitalize our aging infrastructure. While they don’t work for every transportation project, public private partnerships have many benefits including access to billions in private capital, accelerated project delivery and greater innovation.

Second, the project has favorable characteristics that more projects should emulate.  A key one is that state and local governments also put in their own money.  When communities do that, the federal government can be a real partner. 

The Department is focused on making it easier for states to utilize these types of creative funding solutions. We also want to encourage them to leverage resources to make taxpayer dollars go further to support sound projects across the country. The Administration’s comprehensive infrastructure plan seeks this creative approach not just for transit, but highways, rail, aviation, and ports as well.

The Purple Line is a great example of what can be achieved when federal, state and private partners work together. This was a truly collaborative project and Maryland should be proud of the work they did to secure the funding needed to make the Purple Line a reality. It’s just one of the reasons the project received a positive rating.  It is a best practices example for the rest of the country.

So, congratulations to Governor Hogan, Secretary Peter Rahn, his team, and  everyone at the Maryland Department of Transportation and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties who contributed to this project.

I also want to recognize our team at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration Executive Director Matt Welbes who worked to get the Purple Line project off the ground. It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when the private sector state, local and federal governments work together.

The Old Line State is about to get a new line – the Purple Line.  It will be a great addition for all Marylanders. Thank you.