Latest Purple Line Updates
Maryland Board of Public Works approves Public-Private Partnership approach to building and operating the Purple Line.
Purple Line project manager Mike Madden tells the Oct. 8 ACT meeting that the Record of Decision, which authorizes federal funding of the project, is anticipated around Dec. 5.
The main opponent of the Purple Line, Columbia Country Club, folds its hand and agrees not to oppose the project in any way. An exchange of real estate will move the light rail tracks 12 feet to the side and allow the country club's golf course to keep tees at the most desirable locations.
Governor O'Malley announced $400 million in construction funding for the Purple Line on Monday, Aug. 6, bringing the total state money spent or budgeted to more than $900 million. With federal funding anticipated around $900 million, this means that most of the local share of the project's cost is already in place. The state will pursue additional funding from a “public-private partnership” and from Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
What is the Purple Line?
The Purple Line is a proposed light rail Metro line that will run parallel to the Capital Beltway to provide a missing cross-suburban mass transit link. It will connect suburban communities and job centers, providing a quality alternative to driving on the congested Beltway.
The line will serve the town centers of Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park and New Carrollton, with two stops on the University of Maryland campus. It will tie together four Metro lines and three MARC commuter train lines. For detailed route maps, click here.
By linking major suburban centers and existing rail and bus lines, the Bethesda-to-New Carrollton light rail line will cut travel time for tens of thousands of area residents. For example, travel time from Langley Park to Bethesda will drop to about 22 minutes, far faster than is possible today by car or by bus. Trains will go between Silver Spring and Bethesda in 8½ minutes. Daily ridership on the Purple Line is projected to be 69,000 in 2030 and 74,500 in 2040.
This site offers 14 pages of information about the Purple Line. There are many benefits of the project. You can learn how the Purple Line will pass through East Silver Spring and how it will connect to the Red Line in Bethesda. You can learn the history of the project and read about alternatives put forward in the past by opponents of light rail. There is more detail about the Columbia Country Club and how it and other not-in-my-backyard opponents have spent money over the years to stop the Purple Line. We also have a collection of pictures of light rail around the world. (If you'd like to share a photo you've taken of light rail in another city to our slide show, we'd love to add it. Just send an e-mail with the jpg attached.)
Nitty-gritty engineering is going on right now all along the line — retaining walls, railings, ramps, and so forth, as well as a program to integrate art into the project design. After the Record of Decision, expected in November, it will be time for the state and federal governments to come up with the money to pay for construction, via what is known as a “full funding grant agreement.” The gas tax increase voted by the legislature in March will provide the state's share of the cost, and is timed to yield maximum revenue in 2015 and 2016 when construction starts. The Purple Line is in a very strong position in the race for federal funding too — most competing light rail projects yield far fewer riders per dollar spent.
Light Rail Around the World
Some scenes to get you thinking about the possibilities
Chronology of Purple Line Progress
The Final Environmental Impact Statement was issued on Sept. 6, 2013.
In May and August 2013, Maryland committed $680 million of new gas tax money for final design and construction of the Purple Line, bringing the total state commitment to $900 million.
In June 2013, the main opponent of the Purple Line, Columbia Country Club, agreed not to oppose the project further in any way. An exchange of real estate will move the light rail tracks 12 feet to the side and allow the country club's golf course to keep tees at the most desirable locations.
The Purple Line will replace two traffic lanes on University Boulevard instead of widening the roadway. A dangerous highway will become a place that welcomes pedestrians and transit riders.
Rezoning may allow bigger Bethesda station, with bike trail going under Wisconsin Avenue.
On March 29, 2013, Maryland legislature passes transportation funding bill that will fund the state's share of the cost of the Purple Line.
Sierra Club hails Purple Line as one of 25 best transportation projects in the U.S.
Prince George's County leaders rally for the Purple Line.
The future Bethesda Purple Line station will be accessible from the bike trail on both sides of Wisconsin Avenue. Trail users will be able to walk all the way through the tunnel.
Absence of the Purple Line brings crime to Chevy Chase in the summer of 2012.
On March 13, 2012, the County Council voted to keep the new Bethesda metro entrance in the budget. To pay for it, the county will delay two upcounty road projects designed to support sprawl development. The only councilmembers speaking against this switch were Craig Rice and Marc Elrich.
The Purple Line will go from Bethesda to Silver Spring in eight and a half minutes.
The Purple Line was approved in October 2011 to enter preliminary engineering by the Federal Transit Administration. This is the final federal approval of the mode (light rail rather than bus) and route of the project. The project got a “medium-high” rating, putting it ahead of most competitors for federal funding. Read ACT's press release here.
The Maryland Transit Administration has redesigned the area around the future Lyttonsville station to reverse the location of tracks and maintenance yards. There have been complaints from nearby residents, but a detailed analysis in the Silver Spring Trails blog concludes that the changes will benefit neighbors on balance.
The University of Maryland goes all out in support of the Purple Line. President Wallace Loh says that without light rail “There's no way we can retain faculty... It's either massive gridlock or the Purple Line.”
Purple Line schedule slips two years; construction now will begin in 2015 and end in 2020. Cost estimates largely unchanged, but adjusted upward to $1.925 billion to reflect two more years of inflation.
The Town of of Chevy Chase is starting to back off its long-standing opposition to the Purple Line. Town council members say they will work with the Maryland Transit Administration on the Purple Line and are unlikely to sue to block it.
A new vision emerges for a walkable Chevy Chase Lake around the future Purple Line stop.
Governor Martin O'Malley's strong re-election victory, propelled by wide margins in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, is seen as a victory for the Purple Line. For a summary of where the candidates stood, see our comparison page. (Spanish version here.)
The Maryland Transit Administration now favors a Purple Line stop at Dale Drive and Wayne Avenue and has asked the county to endorse adding this additional stop. Tina Slater, ACT Vice President, testified before the County Council on why the Purple Line should stop at Dale Drive.
The state's plan for the Purple Line, including a double track rail line between Bethesda and Langley Park, is now officially part of Montgomery County's master plan after a unanimous vote by the County Council on July 27, 2010. Earlier, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the Purple Line Master Plan at its April 8, 2010 meeting. See the Silver Spring Trails blog for background on tweaks made by the Planning Board.
Read the revelations about the money spent by Purple Line opponents.
For earlier history, go to our Purple Line history page.