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Brown meets with federal transit officials

ANNAPOLIS — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown met Monday with federal transportation officials to reaffirm Maryland’s commitment to pursing two light rail projects that would cost about $1.5 billion each after lawmakers approved legislation this session to raise the state’s gas tax to boost transportation revenues and enhance opportunities for public-private partnerships in the state.

A funding plan for the Purple Line is being sought by state official to ease congestion in the Washington suburbs. State officials also want to create an east-west public transit line in Baltimore called the Red Line.

“Quite frankly, prior to the legislative session there was, I think, considerable doubt whether we would have been able to move forward — not withstanding that we’ve invested over a hundred million in each of the Purple and Red Lines, but now we’re able to move forward,” Brown said in an interview in Annapolis after the meeting in Washington.

Last week, Maryland issued a request for information seeking private-sector input on how to build the Purple Line and the Red Line. Gov. Martin O’Malley also signed legislation last week that Brown pushed during the recently ended legislative session to create a framework in the law to encourage businesses to take a closer look at forming public-private partnerships in Maryland.

“We are optimistic that one or both of those projects will be able to move forward as a public-private partnership, which gives the federal government greater flexibility on their financing side,” Brown said.

Brown met with U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari, who served as O’Malley’s transportation secretary before taking the post in Washington in 2009.

Brown said the state will be convening industry forums in May, one each devoted to the proposed Purple Line and the Red Line. He noted that companies in the private sector have experience building projects such as the Purple Line and the Red Line that state agencies don’t have.