The 16-mile light rail line will connect Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, with intermediate stops in Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Langley Park, Riverdale, and the University of Maryland.
Where We Are Now
On May 22, a federal judge ruled that officials had failed to provide an accurate assessment of the impact of Metro’s declining ridership on the Purple Line’s environmental approval. This decision is another setback in the construction of the Purple Line. The project will remain on hold until the lawsuit is resolved.
The trail advocacy group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and two Town of Chevy Chase originally filed the case in 2014, citing environmental concerns over the proposed route of the Purple Line. The most recent decision came after the same federal judge, Judge Richard Leon, revoked the environmental approval for the Purple Line in August 2016.
The start of construction has already been delayed nine months and the supplemental environmental review that has been ordered by the federal judge will lead to further delays. Additionally, this decision could jeopardize up to $900 million in federal funding along with threatening the $5.6 billion public-private partnership that is needed for the Purple Line’s construction.
Despite the falling ridership that Metro has experienced in recent years, it is estimated that the Purple Line would still be one of the most robust light-rail systems in the U.S. and would see more than 50,000 daily trips in 2040. We continue to believe that the Purple Line is a critical investment that will provide East-West transit alternatives that our region desperately needs and have confidence that further studies will demonstrate this.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn has said the state will appeal the ruling. With our partners and allies, the Coalition for Smarter Growth will keep highlighting the project’s widespread support and the many ways it will make our region better for decades to come. We will keep you updated on any opportunity to weigh in or take action.
- Say “Thank You” to Governor Hogan for Approving the Purple Line (25 Jun 2015)
- Save the Purple Line Before it’s too Late (23 Apr 2015)
- Save the Purple Line Before it’s too Late (17 Dec 2014)
- Help Make the Purple Line All It Can Be (29 Sep 2014)
- Send Your Leaders to Annapolis to Fight for the Purple Lines (15 Jan 2014)
Here are some additional great resources to learn more about our campaign for the Purple Line:
- Our press statement on the May 22, 2017, judge ruling
- Greater Greater Washington analysis on the federal judge ruling that blocked the Purple Line on May 22, 2017
- The official website of the Purple Line has lots of information detailing the plans for building and maintaining the new line.
- Purple Line Now offers many great resources and news updates about the progress of the Purple Line.
Purple Line News
- On August 4, 2016, just four days before Maryland was set to sign the agreement to build the Purple Line, a federal judge ruled that the environmental assessment should be redone to account for declining Metro ridership.
- On June 15, 2016, the US DOT announced a $874.6 million loan to the Purple Line Transit Partners through the Transportation and Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This low-interest loan will allow the private entities to invest as much as they can in the project and spend efficiently.
- On April 6, 2016, the P3 contract was unanimously approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works. The contract, worth $5.6 billion over 36 years, will be administered by the Purple Line Transit Partners and several government agencies.
- On December 8, 2015, four teams of private companies submitted the second portion of their bids to build and run the Purple Line. The first section of the bids, the design portion, was due in early November, with the financial portions of the bids due in December. With all four bids submitted, the state could pick and begin talks with a winner by mid-January 2016.
- On November 30, 2015, Carr Properties presented a proposal to redevelop the Apex Building at a public hearing. The Apex Building sits on top of the future Bethesda Purple Line Stop. Redevelopment of the building could lead to the construction of the optimal station design, as well as a new tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail.
- On August 14, 2015, Prince George’s County agreed to pay an additional $20 million to build the Purple Line. This comes after Montgomery County agreed to pay an $40 million in July, shoring up the last of local funding for the project. According to the agreement, Construction will being in Prince George’s County and the Purple Line primary command center will be located within the county as well.
- On June 25, 2015, Governor Hogan announced that the state would be moving forward with the project. As part of the project’s progression, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are being asked to contribute more money towards the Purple Line’s construction. The private concessionaire is also being asked to contribute more. Hogan announced several costs savings for the project, including reduced headways for trains (6 minutes to 7.5 minutes) as well as the removal of one of the storage yards from the original plan.
- On April 20, 2015, the updated Purple Line preliminary economic impact study was released. The study, authored by a consultancy and commissioned by Montgomery and Price George’s Counties, concluded that the Purple Line will bring “opportunities to fundamentally change the character of business in the area,” including fostering small business growth, as well as $635 million annually in increased federal and state income tax and property tax payments.
- The Washington Post editorial board published an article April 20, 2015 urging Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to move forward with the Purple Line. The editorial board pointed to the Purple Line as an opportunity for the Governor to make good his campaign pledge to strengthen Maryland’s economy. The Washington Post also cited the Purple Line’s “potential as a catalyst in rejuvenating and reviving older, close-in suburban neighborhoods that have stagnated as newer communities outside the Beltway have flourished.”
- In March of 2015, over 150 elected officials, community leaders, and business leaders gathered for Transit Night in Annapolis to call on legislators to keep fighting for the Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line. The broad coalition was united in the message to legislators and the Governor that the transit lines are expected to significantly stimulate economic activity and investment, and neither delay nor cancellation of these critical projects is acceptable. See photos of the event, here and here.
Why Does the Purple Line Matter?
The Purple Line offers a fast and high quality public transit alternative for suburb-to-suburb travelers. It would take cars off local roads and the Beltway, relieve the burden of traffic congestion, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions. Even conservative estimates for Purple Line ridership demonstrate strong demand for the line, with 74,500 daily riders by 2040.
Transit-oriented development near new Purple Line rail stations would promote the revitalization of inner-suburban neighborhoods. By focusing development in inner-Beltway communities through a connected network of high quality transit stations, we can anchor our older communities, enhance property values, and bring new housing and business opportunities to underserved parts of the region. The anticipated increase in property values along the Purple Line corridor is $9.8 billion, and per capita income is predicted to rise by $1,413. A high quality light rail line will foster job growth in Silver Spring and Prince George’s County, connect workers to jobs in Bethesda and the Red Line Corridor, and reduce traffic growth. The project will generate 6,300 construction jobs and 27,000 permanent jobs — and connect the 6,000 small businesses and 130,000 jobs within a half mile of the line. The Purple Line will offer an alternative to traffic-choked commutes, cutting long east-west travel times to 9 minutes between Bethesda and Silver Spring, and 28 minutes between Langley Park and Bethesda. Daily, 17,000 cars will be taken off the road.
For a by-the-numbers look at the benefits the Purple Line will bring, see this fact sheet.
While the new high quality transit connection is a great opportunity for communities along the route, it can also pose challenges by pushing up housing and commercial space price that could lead to displacement. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is a member of the Fair Development Coalition and Purple Line Corridor Coalition, who have been working to create a community compact to ensure that investment in the community benefits existing residents and small businesses.
Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail
The Capital Crescent Trail is an off-road trail used by walkers, joggers, and bikers that runs from Georgetown to Lyttonsville, MD. The Purple Line will bring important improvements to the trail. Today, an approximately 1.5 mile stretch from Lyttonsville to downtown Silver Spring is incomplete and remains on-road, and there are seven at-grade crossings of streets at traffic lights east of the Bethesda Tunnel, including on multi-lane, busy streets such as Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street. The rebuilt trail along the Purple Line would replace all 1.5 miles of the on-road route with a completely off-road trail into downtown Silver Spring. All seven at-grade crossings at lights would be replaced by the rail line and trail tunneling under or bridging over these busy roadways. Prospects for ever completing the trail and removing these at-grade crossings are poor unless the Purple Line is built as planned.
Much has been made of the intersection of the trail and the Purple Line in Bethesda, where the trail currently runs through a tunnel beneath Wisconsin Avenue. Plans for the Purple Line also call for the light rail line to run through the tunnel. This is a very difficult issue. Realigning the trail out of the tunnel is a loss, but the costs of having both the trail and the light rail line in the tunnel appear to be very high and could add to the risk facing funding for the Purple Line. Given the trade-offs, we accept the proposed at-grade alternate route for the trail.
CSG’s Participation in the Maryland Purple Line NOW! and Get Maryland Moving Campaigns
The Coalition for Smarter Growth works actively with regional partners to coordinate advocacy campaigns that support sustainable development patterns. Our involvement in the Purple Line NOW! coalition at a critical point in the study process helped to rally residents’ support at hearings, submit public comments, and sign onto petitions. We have testified in strong support of the Purple Line before state and local decision makers, citing all of the economic, social, and environmental benefits. In 2013, we led the Get Maryland Moving coalition to support the gas tax increase in Annapolis that enabled sufficient funding to make federal funding possible and for the project to move forward. In March of 2015, the Coalition for Smarter Growth joined with Purple Line NOW! and other partners to organize Transit Night, where over 150 elected officials, community leaders, and business leaders called on legislators to keep fighting for the Purple Line and Baltimore’s Red Line.
To follow the progress of the Purple Line and to receive action alerts on how you can support it, please sign up for our action alerts, and we will make it easy for you to contact your elected officials.