HYATTSVILLE, Md. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao signed a funding agreement Monday with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to build a 16-mile light rail project in the traffic-congested suburbs of the nation’s capital, and she praised the use of public-private partnerships to build large infrastructure projects like this one.

Chao said the department is focused on making it easier for states to use such partnerships to pay for expensive and needed infrastructure in the United States.

“We also want to encourage them to leverage resources to make taxpayers’ dollars go further to support sound projects around the country,” Chao said at a groundbreaking ceremony with federal, state and local officials. “The administration’s comprehensive infrastructure plan seeks this creative approach not just for transit, but for highways, rail, aviation and port projects as well, and the Purple Line is a great example of what can be accomplished when the federal, state, local and private partners work together.”

The agreement will free up $325 million in federal funds already appropriated and a total federal contribution of $900 million.

The Purple Line, connecting to Metro, MARC and Amtrak, will run through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, providing rail transportation between the state’s two largest counties with a combined population of more than 1.8 million. The total construction cost is about $2 billion. The cost to design, build and operate the line is estimated at about $5.6 billion.

Hogan, a Republican, said it represents the nation’s largest public-private partnership so far.

“This multibillion infrastructure project is a big win for the state of Maryland, and it will be a major benefit to the national capital region,” Hogan said. “It’s the largest P3, public-private partnership, ever undertaken in the United States of America. It’s a shining example of what can be accomplished when our federal, state, county and private sector partners all work together.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, said the project will put more than 6,000 people to work on the construction project and create more than 400 ongoing jobs.

“It’s going to be a great benefit for the citizens of this entire region in terms of economic development, in terms of less congestion on the roads as more people take transit and, of course in terms of cleaner air because this is an electric-run train,” Van Hollen said.


This story has been corrected to show that Chris Van Hollen is a U.S. senator, not a U.S. representative.