Council urges county start for Purple Line
Decision could come this summer
The Prince George's County Council last week urged state officials to get going on their end of the long-planned and controversial Purple Line.
In a letter to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and top transportation officials approved June 16, council members said getting the major new 16-mile light-rail route from Bethesda to New Carrollton should be made a priority.
"The council also supports, upon receiving federal funding approval, that you will consider start of construction on the Purple Line in Prince George's County first," the letter states.
Depending on its final route and whether the line will use trains or buses, it will cost up to $1.6 billion to build.
Though the letter essentially restates the council's longstanding support for the project, it also illustrates the impatience in Prince George's County over the still to be built transit line, which has been subject of intense public input in Montgomery County.
"The Montgomery County side has been arguing for years and can't seem to make up its mind," said Councilman Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel, chairman of the council committee that drafted the letter. "Prince George's has been left waiting."
Dernoga said local delegates had requested another letter supporting the project as the state considers action this summer to include it in long-range plans and seek federal funding.
Montgomery County Councilman Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown declined to comment about the letter, saying he had not heard of it.
In addition to the current line connecting the northern suburbs, the county also supports extending the Purple Line south from New Carrollton down to the National Harbor development at the Potomac River over the next two decades.
"A full Purple Line segment in Prince George's County is vitally important to revitalizing our older, established communities, it is critical to easing traffic, linking employment centers and connecting spokes of the Metrorail system," according to the letter.
The Purple Line has been considered a missing link in the area public transit system for years. In recent years, debate has focused on everything from where the routes should run to whether travelers should be carried by bus or train.
Officials for both counties now favor light rail for the line. O'Malley is expected to decide how to proceed this summer, and it is believed that he will support a light rail format based on the positions of the two counties.
In their letter to O'Malley, county officials emphasized their longtime support for the transit line. The current council's first resolution when it took office in 2003 was to support the Purple Line, they noted.
"We hope it will be as accelerated as quickly as possible so that working people, students, seniors and residents throughout the metropolitan area who have been waiting for transportation relief will receive it," the letter concludes.
State Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan said that the line could carry as many as 62,000 riders a day by 2030.
"It's clearly an important priority for both Prince George's and Montgomery," he said. "This letter reflects that position."
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