To build the Purple Line, perhaps Montgomery and Prince George's Counties will have to create a "Transportation Renewal District" and Development Authority
Last year, after attending the big conference of the Purple Line Coalition at UMD, I wrote a couple of blog entries:
- Purple line planning in suburban Maryland as an opportunity to integrate place and people focused initiatives into delivery of new transit systems
- Quick follow up to the Purple Line piece about creating a Transportation Renewal District and selling bonds to fund equitable development
This was the recommendation:
The necessary next step to realizing the potential of the Purple Line in Suburban DC (and the Red Line in Suburban Baltimore) for equitable economic revitalization requires the creation of a "Transportation Renewal Tax Increment Financing District" and Bi-County Revitalization Authority to develop and carry out the program.
But rather than pay for the building of the line, I proposed that the monies be used exclusively to pay for focused equitable development and placemaking and business development issues in the Purple Line corridor.
Now I think that to get the Purple Line funded in today's circumstances, given Governor Hogan's reticence to invest in urban areas or in transit ("Hogan’s decision on light-rail Purple Line expected by mid-May," "Hogan: Price of Purple Line is ‘not acceptable’," Washington Post), Montgomery and Prince George's County will have to do what Portland did to fund the Interstate/Yellow Line.
Tri Met #206 in front of the Overlook, a new mixed use development on the corner of Shaver and Interstate, Portland Oregon, April 3 2008. by Dan Haneckow, on Flickr.
The Portland Development Commission created an urban renewal district and the bonds financed a good portion of the local match (federal transit funds covered about 3/4 of the cost) both the construction of the light rail line and various revitalization initiatives.
They took this step after various failed state referenda. First, because the line was supposed to go to Vancouver, Washington, a State of Washington ballot was required, which failed, even though State of Oregon voters approved. Second, they cut Washington out but still needed a statewide vote because the line was supposed to go outside of Portland to eastern suburbs. That failed. I think there was a third vote as well.
Each time, Portland residents voted in favor and the city's officials decided that in order to proceed, they needed to stick within Portland. Of course now Vancouver is looking for the Yellow line to be extended ("Light rail: bliss or blight," Vancouver Columbian).
One problem with URDs is that generally they are limited to a 20 year term. The term should be at least 30 years, given the long time frame necessary to achieve the various goals and objectives, especially in weaker sub markets.
Maryland needs to enable the creation of Transportation Renewal Districts at the sub-state level, with a broader charge based on the strict "blight" standards typically used to justify the creation of urban renewal initiatives.
This will allow the state to reduce the amount of money it must come up with to fund transit projects.
In this case, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties can put a lot more money into funding the construction of the light rail line and take the "burden" off the state.
(Similar to how the State of Virginia reduced its financial obligations for the Silver Line by shifting control of the Dulles Toll Road to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, gave MWAA the responsibility for construction and financing of the Silver Line, and MWAA generated a great deal of the funding by escalating toll rates.)
At the same time, there will still be enough money in the TRD so that the counties can still do the equity, portfolio, and placemaking initiatives and investments also recommended.
Montgomery County could create separate TRDs to deal with Metrorail expansion and the creation of a BRT network(subject of a recent failed initiative by County Executive Leggett to create a state-enabled transit authority, "Leggett withdraws Independent Transit Authority Bill," Bethesda Magazine).
Note: I didn't remember this, but apparently I suggested this in 2007 as well. See "It's time to create the "Port Authority" of Montgomery and Prince George's Counties."
This is what I wrote:
1. Otherwise the Purple Line transit line may never get built.
Probably the only way to build the line, given how the State of Maryland's transportation priorities are focused on the Inter County Connector, HOT lanes on I-95 north of Baltimore, and maybe Baltimore, not to mention dealing with the infrastructure ramifications of military base expansion in the Fort Meade area due to the BRAC process, is to create an "urban renewal district" that can sell bonds with repayments based on the anticipated gain in property and other tax revenues.
Note that I am not so familiar with the proposed route that I have a sense about how much new value will be created. One of the problems is that it takes quite a while for the new value to kick in, at least 12-15 years...
The Interstate, or Yellow, Line in Portland, Oregon was built using such a method.
And of course, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey funds projects that benefits both states, such as transportation projects like the PATH subway trains.
Closer to home, the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corporation operates in both Silver Spring, Maryland and in the Upper Georgia Avenue section of DC.
2. And efforts in Takoma Park to improve New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard will be harder to pull off without the creation of a bi-county authority. This is because one side of New Hampshire Avenue is in MoCo, the other in PG, and in different parts of the corridor, value capture varies by county, based on the opportunities presented. But to pay for it all, you need the tax increment revenue increases from both sides of the street.
Note that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gets no taxes, only revenues from operations and fees such as the airports, etc., and a bi-county authority in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties couldn't operate in the same way.
Nonetheless, a local authority in those two counties would be a logical extension of the legally combined, but in reality separated, bi-county Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which is supposed to manage planning in those two counties in ways that are complementary to the federal presence in the District of Columbia. (Each county has its own planning operation and procedures.)