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News Opinion

Costs for Red, Purple lines increase, even as major funding is proposed

The estimated costs for the Red and Purple transit lines in Baltimore and suburban Washington increased in recent years, an analysis released Wednesday by the Federal Transit Administration showed.

The Red Line, which would cut west-to-east across and at times under Baltimore, now is estimated to cost $2.644 billion, $70 million more than a November 2012 estimate, primarily due to "increased construction costs for underground stations and for the heavy maintenance facility," according to the report.

The Purple Line's cost now is estimated at $2.371 billion, up 10 percent from $2.151 billion in November 2012. The increase reflects "inclusion of project finance costs, increased real estate costs from a larger number of land parcels to be acquired, and from increased costs of site preparation than previously estimated," the report found. The Purple Line would run between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County.

Henry Kay, the Maryland Transit Administration's executive director for transit development and delivery, said the cost increases are not unmanageable or unexpected.

Kay called the lines "just like any large capital project," in that initial assessments of costs change as more design work is completed. "It's a long process of refining those numbers," he said.

The recent increases "don't cause us to question the overall affordability of the projects," he said.

That may be in part because they were published in the same FTA report that outlined the Obama administration's proposal to provide each project with $100 million in initial grant funding in the upcoming fiscal year.

The MTA's "confidence" in its cost estimates for the projects "is really increasing," Kay said, and the state does not expect any increases to rise to the level of threatening the proposed federal funding.

Twenty percent of each project budget is contingency funding for any unexpected costs, he said.

krector@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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