Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Maryland Purple Line LRT may trump two road projects

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Flouting traditional routes taken by most state departments of transportation, Maryland transportation officials are emphasizing financing the proposed 16-mile Purple Line light rail project, traversing the northern Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., while demoting two “major” road projects in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The intent comes despite climbing cost estimates for the Purple Line, now expected to total $1.68 billion, up $330 million from previous projections. Officials were scheduled to outline their plan Wednesday before a regional planning board, prior to soliciting federal matching funds. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to seek such matching funds this fall.

The state says cutting the two road projects from the region's transportation plan would free up $536 million. Another $500 million would come from the state’s transportation trust fund.

The Purple Line, linking Bethesda and New Carrollton, Md., would handle 62,600 riders daily by 2030, serving 21 stations, including four transfer points with Washington’s Metro system; access to MARC and Amtrak passenger services also would be available.


Maryland will continue planning for the two road projects, but if funds were shifted to the Purple Line those projects could not be built unless they were reinserted into the regional plan. Both are road-widening projects, scheduled to be built by 2020. "It shows the higher priority ofthe Purple Line, but these projects were not likely to be built for a number of years anyway," said David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The regional plan already includes another $480 million in state and federal money for a transit link between Bethesda and Silver Spring, Md., the western portion of the Purple Line.

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