|Governor Martin O'Malley Announces Federal Transit Administration Approval for Purple Line to Take Critical Next Step|
"Preliminary Engineering" phase makes way for region's first light rail line
On October 7, 2011, Governor Martin O'Malley announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has given its approval for the Purple Line to move forward and enter the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase. The Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile east-west light rail that will operate between Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County with connection to four branches of the WMATA Metro system. FTA approval means that work on the project now moves to preparation of more detailed plans, schedules and cost estimates, as well as completion of environmental studies.
"This action by the Federal Transit Administration will help us expand rapid and reliable transportation in the Washington suburban region as part of our larger effort to create the next generation of transit in Maryland," said Governor O'Malley. "The Purple Line will be an environmentally-friendly option that will reduce gridlock and connect citizens to economic opportunities throughout the region. Today's federal approval affirms the benefits and feasibility of this project—paving the way for job creation and future federal funding. Together, with our federal partners, we can secure the future of transit in Maryland and continue to move the Purple Line forward."
The FTA review of the Purple Line proposal focused on the project's high daily ridership and many significant benefits as well as the State's financial commitment and technical capacity to build and operate the project. By granting permission to begin preliminary engineering, the Purple Line becomes one of a small of number of projects nationwide that are eligible for federal funding.
"Governor O'Malley and I have made public transportation one of our top priorities because we understand that Maryland cannot continue to move forward if we are buried in gridlock," said Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. "The Purple Line project will help us address many of the difficult challenges we face today and in the future."
Support for the Purple Line project was also expressed by Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III, and both County Councils, as well as the mayors of many towns, elected officials along the 16-mile corridor and the University of Maryland College Park.
Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III recently said, "The Purple line is a great way to make the wonderful and diverse communities of Prince George's County more accessible to residents and visitors and it will help to create new jobs and commerce for our residents."
As proposed, the Purple Line will connect major employment and activity centers in Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton with residential and commercial areas located in between, including the Takoma-Langley Park community and Riverdale Park residents whose many transit dependent riders today are only served by buses. It will link both branches of Metro's Red Line at Bethesda and Silver Spring, the Green Line at College Park and the Orange Line at New Carrollton. The Purple Line will also connect all three MARC commuter rail lines, Amtrak and local bus services.
The 16-mile Purple Line will play a critical role in the economic vitality of the corridor, with a projected increase of over 27,000 jobs per year and nearly $10 billion in additional federal, state, and local revenues through the life of the rail line. The MTA is establishing a workforce development task force to assist with the creation of a state wide policy towards providing training programs for employment opportunities along the rail line.
"Job creation and economic development rely on critical infrastructure, particularly public transit," said Senator Ben Cardin. "Moving the Purple Line into this next stage is an important step towards finally getting shovels in the ground and workers on the job so that thousands in Prince George's and Montgomery County, particularly federal employees, can stop wasting time, money and gas in gridlock. The lack of affordable, convenient transportation choices connecting busy Maryland communities with Metro, MARC and Amtrak, has been frustrating for individuals and businesses throughout our region. But that is now changing."
The Purple Line will be a pedestrian-friendly system with 21 stations that are projected to handle 60,000 riders a day by 2030. On the western end, it will operate along the former Georgetown Branch railroad right of way, currently an interim hiker-biker trail. The project will be built simultaneously with the construction of a permanent trail separated from the rail line with a landscaped buffer. Different than Metro, light rail is powered by an overhead wire, can operate at-grade and is compatible with pedestrians and automobile traffic.
"This approval is a critical step in making the Purple Line a reality and improving the transit system that is integral to the quality of life and economic well-being of the entire region," said 5th District Congressman Steny H. Hoyer. "I look forward to reviewing more detailed plans for this project and working with my colleagues at the Federal, State, and local level to ensure that we move forward on a fiscally responsible plan that provides the most benefit to residents of Maryland."
Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland's 8th District added, "I am pleased that we've cleared an important hurdle in the effort to bring new transportation options and economic development to our region. As we move forward on this project, I also encourage the State to continue to work with local stakeholders in this engineering phase to protect the integrity of the Capital Crescent Trail and neighborhoods along the corridor."
"The FTA approval is a pivotal step towards redefining the scope of public transportation throughout our communities," said Congresswoman Edwards. "The Purple Line will bring long awaited environmental, transit, and economic development benefits to Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. Today, we are in a stronger position to secure additional federal funding, and I look forward to working with Governor O'Malley and the rest of the delegation to further develop the Purple Line and begin construction on my top transportation priority."
The Purple Line will largely run on the surface with one short tunnel section, one aerial section and several underpasses and overpasses of busy roadways. It will operate mainly in dedicated or exclusive lanes, allowing for fast, reliable transit operations. Purple Line riders will generally access the line on foot or by existing bus and rail services since it directly serves local communities.
The MTA will continue to work to address concerns raised by communities throughout the Preliminary Engineering process. Public outreach and agency coordination will continue to be an integral part of the development of the final environmental impact statement, providing opportunities for local residents and stakeholders to contribute to the planning and design of the project. With appropriate approvals and funding, construction could start in 2015 and service on the Purple Line could begin in 2020.
Maryland's plans to create the next generation of transit in the state also include the Baltimore Red Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway. The Red Line is at a similar level of development, and received similar FTA approval earlier this summer. MTA is nearing completion of planning work for the Corridor Cities Transitway, and preparation of materials for FTA review will start later this year.