Montgomery County projects tied to Purple Line delayed

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Photo - Surrounded by officials and supporters, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley backs Metro's 16 mile Purple Line which will link Bethesda and New Carrollton. In New Carrollton, MD on Tuesday August 4, 2009.

Andrew Harnik/Examiner
Surrounded by officials and supporters, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley backs Metro's 16 mile Purple Line which will link Bethesda and New Carrollton. In New Carrollton, MD on Tuesday August 4, 2009. Andrew Harnik/Examiner
Local,Maryland,Transportation,Kate Jacobson,Metro,Montgomery County

Montgomery County lawmakers are re-examining the need for projects tied to the planned Purple Line light rail, whose funding is in jeopardy.

County Executive Ike Leggett said Tuesday he was delaying the proposed south entrance to the Bethesda Metro Station, which would allow riders to transfer between the Purple Line's Bethesda terminus and the Metro. He also is delaying funding for the Capital Crescent Trail, the popular path that would have to be reconstructed if the Purple Line is built. The $2.15 billion, 16-mile line between New Carrollton and Bethesda would run along the current trail.

"Due to the current lack of state construction funding for these projects, this reduction is not likely to cause a delay in the project," according to a release from Leggett announcing several postponements due to the county's budget shortfall.

Leggett wants more money for transit center
County Executive Ike Leggett announced he was going to put $7.5 million more into the Silver Spring Transit Center to cover site improvements, utilities and construction costs. The $110 million transportation project in downtown Silver Spring, which began construction in 2008, has been delayed several times, most recently due to structural problems. The facility would provide connections among MARC, Metrorail and the Purple Line and hold bus bays, a kiss and ride stop and a taxi stand.

Council members also delayed several master plans for development along the light rail.

The council was supposed to finish five master plans in 15 months, a schedule that planning staff thought was "ambitious." Two of those developments are along the Purple Line: the controversial Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan on Connecticut Avenue and the Long Branch Sector Plan.

Council members debated whether taking up the Chevy Chase Lake and Long Branch projects were appropriate since parts of their designs depend on the Purple Line.

Currently, the state has none of the money it needs to build the line, or a proposed $2.5 billion light rail in Baltimore. State officials are hoping the federal government will fund part of the project, though federal dollars are capped at $900 million per project -- and to win the funding, Maryland first must demonstrate where its share will come from.

"If the [state legislature] doesn't act and if the Transportation Trust Fund remains broke, then the likelihood there will be a Purple Line is slim," said Councilman George Leventhal, D-at large. "So, particularly with respect to Chevy Chase Lake and Long Branch ... the future vision for both communities is directly linked to the prospect of the Purple Line."

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, said the county must prepare for all potential changes, even if the state and federal government don't fund the project.

Rose Krasnow, interim director of the county's Planning Department, argued that developing the communities along the route would entice state and federal agencies to provide funding for it.

"In order to convince the powers that be to fund the Purple Line, we need to develop," she said. "We very consciously started doing these master plans before [Purple Line funding discussions]."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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