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With No Funding In Sight, State Considers Halting Purple Line Design Work

Montgomery County Council members today urged the Maryland Department of Transportation against stopping and reallocating $41 million in design funding for the Purple Line light rail.

In the Department of Transportation’s Final FY 13-18 Consolidated Transportation Program, the state says that without a transportation revenue increase in this year’s legislative session, all Purple Line design work will be put on hold and funding dedicated to the project for the next year will be dispersed.

County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-East County) and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) said that language was not included in the Draft Consolidated Transportation Program released last summer. In a letter to Darrell Mobley, acting secretary of the Maryland DOT, Berliner and Navarro called that decision “unacceptable.”

Dear Acting Secretary Mobley:

In reviewing the Final FY 13-18 Consolidated Transportation Program recently published by your department, we are dismayed to see new text in the “Status” section of the project information forms for the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway that states:

“Without a revenue increase in the 2013 legislative session, the project will be put on hold and FY14 funding will be reallocated within MTA’s budget.”

This language was not included in the Draft FY13-18 CTP last summer. Since we did not know of the Department’s intentions then, we did not comment on such a potentiality at the Annual Tour Meeting last fall. However, if the Department plans to follow through on this position, then the $41.6 million already programmed in the FY14 for design of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties and $17.2 already programmed in FY14 for preliminary engineering of the Corridor Cities Transitway in upper Montgomery County would disappear entirely, and any progress on these two lines will stop dead in their tracks. After more than a decade of work on these two projects, this is unacceptable.

We support a significant State transportation revenue increase during the current General Assembly session that will fund the Purple Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, and a few other of our highest priority State projects. But if this does not come to pass, we do not accept taking a step backward by de-programming the FY14 funds. We urge the Department to change its position.

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Berliner, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and a number of other County leaders have been actively pushing a gas tax increase in the state assembly that would provide funding for the Purple Line and a number of other projects.

The 16-mile, $2.4 billion Purple Line light rail would run from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda and include stops in College Park, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase. The proposed Chevy Chase Lake Purple Line stop is the basis for much of the development being debated on Connecticut Avenue.

Uncertainty around funding for Purple Line construction has already meant a recommended six-month delay in funding for the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project, which would connect Metro with the Bethesda station.

Maryland Transit Administration officials revealed the latest designs for the Bethesda station at a community meeting in December. The Bethesda station would be one of the busiest, with an estimated 15,000 riders each day.

Berliner, Navarro Letter to MDOT


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