Local leaders respond to Purple Line’s progress

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The long-awaited Purple Line, which would connect New Carrollton, College Park, Silver Spring and Bethesda, is finally taking a big step toward construction. But Montgomery County’s leader says there are still more details to be worked out.

“I’m delighted,” County Executive Ike Leggett said shortly after Wednesday’s announcement. “[But] we still have some further discussions to make sure that all of the pieces are consistent with our plan here locally.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker also welcomes the selection of a group to build and operate the 21-stop, 16.2-mile light rail line connecting the two counties.

“The Purple Line is an important state transportation project that will spur economic development, reduce traffic and lead to greater environmental sustainability for Prince George’s, Montgomery and neighboring counties throughout central and southern Maryland,” Baker says in a statement.

“This project has been in the works for well over a decade,” the statement continues. “Today’s announcement is welcomed news to begin construction, create jobs, and finally bringing the Purple Line to fruition for our residents, businesses and visitors.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has trimmed the project during a lengthy delay, and required greater contributions from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties before the state selected the group that will build the system.

The Board of Public Works is expected to take up the contract next month, and construction could begin later this year.

“There are some bits and pieces that we have to make sure that we are consistent on and we fully understand, but it’s a good sign for us because it has the movement of the project going forward on the federal, state and local levels,” Leggett says.

“We’ve already planned development; the question now is that we have to make sure that transportation is here to accommodate the development that we’ve planned,” he says.

The Purple Line will connect with, but not be a part of, the Metro system when it opens by 2022.

Prince George’s County Council Chair Derrick Davis says in a statement that the council is “elated” that the Purple Line is moving forward.

“The Purple Line, a transformative project which will link our communities and job centers together, is Prince George’s County’s number one transit priority,” the statement said. “We deeply appreciate the State’s commitment to start project construction in New Carrollton and ensure that the project’s principal operations center will be in Prince George’s County.”

Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner recognizes that construction will be disruptive, especially in the area he represents, where homes back up against the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase.

Still, he says, the region needs the Purple Line, Metro, the county’s planned bus rapid transit and other transportation options to fit together so that people have choices to help them get out of traffic jams.

“It’s a very positive day for Montgomery County and for its future,” Berliner says.

“I get that this Capital Crescent Trail has been bucolic and wonderful and it runs right past your house, and would you rather have that or a light rail system? Actually, I’d probably want the trees if I were them, too, but the larger public good demands this,” he says.

After years of planning and delays, Berliner says, many people thought this day would never come.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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