Purple Line supporters make pitch to Md. lawmakers

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Those in favor of building the 16-mile Purple Line connecting Bethesda and New Carrollton gathered in Annapolis Monday to lobby state lawmakers.

The long-talked-about light rail line is in limbo until Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan weighs in.

“He said he’d make a decision by May, and he also delayed the contract bidding process by a few months as well. We’re very worried that we could lose some of the first federal money [pledged toward the project],” Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, told WTOP following an evening news conference about the day’s events.

Hogan said during his campaign that the plan, now estimated to cost $2.4 billion, was too expensive, and state transportation leaders said last month that they will be looking at ways to trim that figure.

“Jobs are on the line,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner of the importance of the rail system, which would include 21 stations.

Berliner, who chairs the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, added that the Purple Line is also key to expanding higher education in the state.

“This project’s so important to the University of Maryland, who said it’s their No. 1 priority if you want to build the institution.”

Ralph Bennett, president of the group Purple Line Now, had a message for Governor Hogan: “Approve it enthusiastically, understand it as the economic stimulus it is, and as the improvement to transportation we need. Say yes, and say it soon.”

He insisted, “We have to have it. It’ll help with the traffic; it certainly will give people alternatives for ways to get around. There’s no other way to do it — we cannot build more highway lanes.”

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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