LAUREL, Md. – Elected officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are worried the Hogan administrations plans to reduce the cost of the Purple Line would cut too deep.
Montgomery and Prince George’s county council members met in Laurel Monday morning to discuss bi-county issues with the Maryland Transit Administration, Metro and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
The big issue heading into the meeting was the status of the Purple Line, the east-west light rail line that would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton. Governor Hogan’s administration said last week that it is looking for ways to cut the projects’ $2.4 billion price tag with the intention of building a sufficient and effective line.
The council members understand the desire to trim expenses, but they are concerned what those cost reductions would mean for the commuters and the communities along the line’s route.
“From my perspective, everything we are hearing from the administration now is ‘skinny it up, it’s not going to be a Cadillac, it’s going to be closer to a Chevy.’ We’re fighting whether this can be either a Buick or an Oldsmobile. But at the end of the day, we are going to have the Purple Line and that’s the bottom line,” Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner told WTOP. “It’s not okay that it’s a Chevy. I apologize, I’m not a Chevy guy. To all you Chevy owners, I’m not a Chevy guy. It needs to be a little more than that.”
One of the proposed tradeoffs planners are considering is turning an overpass across Connecticut Avenue into an at-grade crossing, meaning cars would have to stop for passing trains.
“It cannot fundamentally undermine the attractiveness of the line and it can’t fundamentally disrupt traffic in our communities that are already such a nightmare,” Berliner said of the cuts.
Berliner and Prince George’s County Councilwoman Mary Lehman say both counties are making a significant investment into this project and they expect more than just the basics.
“It can’t be so scaled back that it’s not worth the investment that we are making because it is a significant investment of public dollars,” explained Lehman. “It’s obviously a big benefit for transit and relieving congestion, but there is so many related issues in terms of land use, transit, and the economy. I hope and pray that Governor Hogan will do the right thing and help us move this project forward.”
Both local politicians have an optimistic outlook for the project.
“I’m reading the body language in a very positive way,” Berliner said of the transit officials who spoke with the council members. “I think we are going to get the Purple Line and I think people ought to be very happy about that. There will be some tough decisions and when we see them, we will deal with them when they come up.”
Lehman agreed, “I’m optimistic as well.”
A decision on whether to move forward with the Purple Line project should be made by mid-May. Officials involved in the effort say when the rail line gets the green light, they hope to make up as much lost time as possible.