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Purple Line open houses bring optimism for project

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Purple Line as a Metro project.

SILVER SPRING, Md. – At an open house to update residents on the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line, project leaders expressed optimism that the new Maryland transportation bill could allow the 16-mile light rail line to open in 2020.

It would connect Bethesda to New Carrollton.

“The new state money helps us get money to continue the design, but we need federal dollars for construction of the project – roughly a 50 percent share,” says Mike Madden, project manager for the Purple Line.

Ultimately, the Federal Transit Administration could determine whether construction will begin on time in 2015. Both the Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line are among projects competing for New Starts money. If Maryland does not receive federal money this year, construction on the Purple Line will likely be delayed.

However, some transportation analysts have also questioned whether there is enough money to build both light-rail lines. Madden expressed confidence that it is possible.

“That is why the state is evaluating public-private partnerships,” he says. “That may be a way to fund the Purple Line, and in turn for the state to build both projects.”

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is a key player, especially now that he is now running for governor. He played a key role in passing the Public-Private Partnership law this year and has also been an active supporter to push the Purple Line forward.

It would fall on Brown to finish the job if he is elected, likely with some private partnership dollars.

Meanwhile, Purple Line officials have made a slight change to their plans along University Boulevard between Piney Branch Road and Adelphi Road. Previously, the plan called for adding new lanes in the median and widening past the three existing lanes in each direction.

But now the State Highway Administration approved a plan to eliminate an existing lane of traffic for the Purple Line, meaning drivers would only have two lanes in each direction.

“We’ve evaluated the impact on vehicle traffic,” says Madden. “Our study basically shows that over the last 30 years, on many stretches of University Boulevard, the traffic has actually gone down.”

Two more Purple Line open houses will be held this week from 5 to 8 p.m. The locations include Bethesda- Chevy Chase High School on May 14 and Woodridge Elementary School on May 15.

Attendees will get to see a street-by-street view of the entire 16-mile line and ask staffers questions about the project.

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