WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama has included funding for the Maryland National Capital Purple Line in his fiscal 2015 operating budget, bringing the proposed 16.2-mile light rail transit system a step closer to reality.
Obama’s budget proposal includes $100 million in 2015 for the Purple Line as part of a $900 million request – 38 percent of the project’s total cost – to fund the system through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts Program. The Purple Line is one of only seven projects recommended for a full funding grants agreement.
The Purple Line, when completed, would connect Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, while passing through areas such as Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Langley Park, and College Park. The Maryland Transit Administration estimates ridership to exceed 74,000 by 2040, and construction is estimated to create 6,300 regional jobs. The project has a $2.371 billion price tag.
Maryland officials lauded the President’s proposal, calling it a major step forward for the project.
“Investing in our infrastructure creates jobs, makes Maryland even more attractive for businesses, and — because we’re investing in mass transit — helps our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “Kudos to President Obama for seeing the merits of the state and local investments that have been made to build a world-class, 21st century transit network.”
“(The Purple Line) will ease traffic congestion, decrease pollution, increase commuter choices, and link important economic centers,” said Congressman Chris Van Hollen (MD-8). “I look forward to working with the Federal Transit Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration and local stakeholders to ensure that the projects provide meet these important goals while preserving the integrity of the Capital Crescent Trail and neighborhoods along the corridor.”
Last fall the Maryland Board of Public Works approved the Purple Line as a public-private partnership. The MTA will select one of four proposals from private sector teams, with the winner expected to invest between $500 million and $900 million in the project.
“This announcement also reaffirms the federal government’s faith in Maryland’s innovative approach to transportation funding,” said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. “The Purple Line will be the largest transit public-private partnership in the history of our state, creating thousands of jobs for Maryland’s workers and, when completed, take 60,000 riders back and forth between Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties every day.”
Meanwhile, those living in areas adjacent to the proposed Purple Line oppose the project because of the effects it will have on their neighborhoods.
On March 10 Montgomery County Council members Roger Berliner and Cherri Branson sent a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett urging him to create a task force made up of members of the Coalition of Purple Line Neighborhoods so that people living in areas being affected by the project may have a voice.
“Many of these residents, despite their vigorous engagement, feel disappointed in how their input has been received by the MTA and county Department of Transportation to date,” the council members wrote. “We can and should do better for our residents, which is why we request that you establish an advisory body to ensure that we are designing a project that minimizes community and environmental impacts while delivering improved accessibility.