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Purple Line Loop Alternative

In late 2002 County Executive Doug Duncan introduced a new proposal for the Bethesda to Silver Spring leg of the Inner Purple Line. His plan called for a heavy rail Metro line that would go north from the Silver Spring Metro station along the CSX railroad, turn west to follow the north side of I-495 (Beltway) and then go south to connect to the western leg of the Red Line north of the Medical Center/NIH stop. With this proposal, half of the Red Line trains heading to the Shady Grove Station would be redirected onto the loop just after the Medical Center stop and run along the new tracks until they rejoined the Red Line north of Silver Spring. There would be only one new station near Connecticut Avenue and the Beltway.  This proposal was designated the "Purple Line Loop" by the County Planning Board staff.

The disadvantages of this proposal were immediately obvious.  The loop route would not serve Prince George's County.  Because half the trains on the Red Line would turn off onto the loop, Red Line stations beyond Medical Center and Silver Spring would actually lose service.  And additional problems of cost and environmental impact soon emerged.

In early 2003 the Montgomery County Planning Board staff recommended that this proposal not be carried forward. The Montgomery County Planning Board and the Montgomery County Council agreed with this position. Maryland DOT did not accept Doug Duncan’s proposal and   requested state and federal funds only for light rail or bus options.

In January 2008, Purple Line opponents including Columbia Country Club president J. Paul McNamara launched a renewed campaign for the Purple Line loop.  The main argument for reviving the loop is that it will serve the expanded Bethesda Naval Hospital when it merges with Walter Reed under the "BRAC" process.  But analysis by the Maryland Transit Administration shows that the number of Purple Line riders added by BRAC is tiny compared to the riders traveling to downtown Bethesda who would be disadvantaged by the loop.  Both a summary of this analysis and the full report are available. 

Bad Idea, Bad Timing and Bad Politics

The loop proposal would have substantially more serious negative impacts on Silver Spring, Kensington, and Bethesda neighborhoods than the current Inner Purple Line trolley/trail proposal. Additionally, the Duncan loop, eliminates a number of stops that have been embraced by the communities along the rights of way and would forego a hiker-biker trail into the heart of Silver Spring.

Concerns with the Loop: