ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Plans for a light rail line to ease traffic congestion around the nation’s capital moved forward Wednesday.

The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously to authorize state transportation officials to seek out private partners to build the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion light rail line that would run through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Board approval was needed to go forward under a law approved by the General Assembly this year that created a framework to pursue public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects.

Board members Gov. Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot also will need to approve the final plan, which state transportation officials say could come before the board in December 2014. State transportation officials hope the light rail line could open in 2020.

The 16-mile line would have 21 stations between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The line would provide a direct mode of rail transportation for commuters between the state’s two largest counties with a combined population of more than 1.8 million people.

Under the plan, companies would put between $500 million and $900 million into the cost, and the state is seeking $900 million in federal money. The state would cover the rest. It would create the first public-private partnership for a transit project in the state.

“To move forward now, it’s pretty dependent upon the federal funding coming through,” Transportation Secretary Jim Smith told reporters after the board’s vote.

Henry Kay, executive director of Transit Development and Delivery for the Maryland Transit Administration, said state officials hope to get a budget recommendation in federal fiscal year 2015. If federal money is not awarded, Kay said the state could either provide the amount or let private companies invest more.

Smith said he hoped to have a final request for proposals out in April, with a selection of a proposal in September. Construction is expected to take five years.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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