Greater Greater Washington

With federal approval in hand, the pieces needed to build the Purple Line fall into place

The Federal Transit Administration has just issued a Record of Decision for the Purple Line, basically approving the 16-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. It's one of the last pieces needed to build the line, which is scheduled to break ground next year and open in 2020.


This just got one stop closer to reality. Image from Montgomery County.

Maryland Transit Administration officials made the announcement this morning during a Montgomery County Planning Board meeting about the Purple Line, which Purple Line NOW! and BethesdaNow subsequently tweeted.

The FTA will make a formal announcement next week. The agency's decision means Maryland can start purchasing right-of-way to build the $2.37 billion Purple Line, and makes it eligible for federal funding. President Obama recently included it in his 2015 budget, which Congress will have to approve later this year.

With state funding in place and an ongoing search for a private partner in the works, nearly all of the money needed has been secured. As a sign of how likely the Purple Line is to get built, the Planning Board is meeting today to make detailed recommendations about how it should interact with surrounding neighborhoods, like what materials to use for retaining walls.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney has a column today urging the affluent Town of Chevy Chase, which has been fighting the project for years and recently hired a congressman's brother to lobby on their behalf, to lay down their arms and use their money to make the project better instead.

"Some people have more money than good judgment," he wrote. "The town should end its obstruction of a worthy project. Burning money is unwise even if you have it to spare."

Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 

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Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney has a piece out today...

Got a link to that piece you could share?

by Alex B. on Mar 20, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

But somebody think of the shrimp that don't live in the purple line's path!

by PotomacAveres on Mar 20, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

President Obama recently included it in his 2015 budget, which Congress will have to approve later this year.

Maybe i'm reading this statement wrong but why does Congress have to approve the President's budget? Presidential budgets are typically Dead On Arrival and this one is no different. In recent years, Congress hasn't passed any budget -- whether the President's or their own -- and instead relied on Continuing Resolutions to fund the govt.

by Falls Church on Mar 20, 2014 11:24 am • linkreport

I think the thing Congress will have to approve is "it" not the budget. With "it" being the Purple Line, but it is worded confusingly.

by David C on Mar 20, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

Maybe i'm reading this statement wrong but why does Congress have to approve the President's budget?

Congress is funding the New Starts program, which is discretionary. The executive branch (ie, FTA) is making the decision for which to fund.

by AA on Mar 20, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

@Falls Church, we had a budget agreement and a Omnibus appropriation bill passed in January for FY2014. The government is not operating under a CR this year.

The FTA included the Purple Line in the list of FY15 projects slated for Full Funding Grant Agreements which is a significant step. Up to Congress to provide the funds but the projects with FFGA usually get funded.

With Record Of Decision, the Purple Line is getting close to reality. The only 2 possible roadblocks appear to be the Chevy Chase NIMBYs and the flap over SNCF as the owner of one of the competing vendors. I think MD legislature will back off on the SNCF issue.

by AlanF on Mar 20, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

Great news.

Does anybody who has followed this over the years know if extensions beyond new carrolton have ever been brought. There is quite a lot of commercial development (and new residential),just outside the beltway that is physically quite close to metro but inaccessible. Even just an Annapolis rd., MLK hwy loop would serve many businesses.

by egk on Mar 20, 2014 11:51 am • linkreport

Great news.

I woudl be worried about the contractor.

by charlie on Mar 20, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

Does anybody who has followed this over the years know if extensions beyond new carrolton have ever been brought. There is quite a lot of commercial development (and new residential),just outside the beltway that is physically quite close to metro but inaccessible. Even just an Annapolis rd., MLK hwy loop would serve many businesses.

Not sure I follow, the line is already going to cross Annapolis Road(on Veterans parkway)to get to the rail station.

The current plans do not call for the purple line to cross the NEC or the metro line, which would be necessary for it to get over to MLK highway.

There really isn't currently that much need to get down to Largo or Morgan Blvd(or Landover) but it might come up in the future. I imagine if there is any push for an extension it would be sizable to go to Branch Ave, Suitland, or Andrews and then maybe across the Wilson bridge.

by Richard on Mar 20, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

egk: no. Tragically. PGC should step up and begin planning this to enable fixed rail transit connections to National Harbor.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2014/02/maryland-gubernatorial-campaign.html

by Richard Layman on Mar 20, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

RE: purple line past New Carrollton, I think past New Carrollton there is not as much utility in connecting down to the Blue and Gree in a one seat ride. A trip from Greenbelt to Suitland or Branch Ave would be faster on Metro and there isnt as much intermediate stuff to connect as Bethesda to College Park. You could maybe run a line from Suitland to Capital Heights and then up MLK toward New Carrollton. There are a few warehouse districts in between but I don't know if the ridership is there vs say office buildings and multifamily housing.

by BTA on Mar 20, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

The Montgomery County Planning Board is currently reviewing the staff comments on the Purple Line, Bethesda South Entrance, Capital Crescent Trail, and Silver Spring Green Trail projects. Watch live when the Planning Board returns to session at 1:30 pm at: http://mncppc.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2.

And take a look at the Planning Department's interactive map displaying the staff's recommended comments on the projects at www.mcatlas.org/purple/.

by David Anspacher on Mar 20, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

@egk: Some long-term plans have the Orange Line going to the general vicinity of Bowie Town Center. I do not know whether WMATA and PG Co have learned their lesson or would run it in the US-50 right-of-way. In the 10-20 year time horizon, improved bike-ped access is at least on the plan, which would make Washington Business Park a short bike ride to New Carollton. See the New Carollton transit district plan.

As Richard Layman points out, the next logical light rail for Prince George is connecting Alexandria to National Harbor and Oxon Hill/Forest Heights, presumably with a line that would run to the southern Green Line at Suitland. But the planning for a line to Waldorf is farther along.

by JimT on Mar 20, 2014 1:51 pm • linkreport

@ David A. - That website is excellent.

by JDC on Mar 20, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

@ BTA have you ever rode from any outer station to another outer station ?

Its not about people going from Greenbelt to Suitland but from like Largo to Branch Ave or New Carrolton to Largo or Addison Road or Suitland etc. It can take more than 1 hour even though the distance is less than 10 miles.

There is also a Gigantic stretch of land between the Blue line and Green lines that does not have good access to transit. Also the stretch south of Branch Ave station. that will never have Green Line service cause of Andrews, 495 & Route 5 being in the way

If the Purple Line was built from the Red Line to Green you could discontinue some of the Metrobus and The Bus routes because all they do is connect people going from one line to the other.

Buses that come to mind are the P12, F4/F6, V14, F14, A11/A12 there are some The Bus buses but I can not think of the routes .

by kk on Mar 20, 2014 2:42 pm • linkreport

If the Purple Line was built from the Red Line to Green you could discontinue some of the Metrobus and The Bus routes because all they do is connect people going from one line to the other.

Buses that come to mind are the P12, F4/F6, V14, F14, A11/A12 there are some The Bus buses but I can not think of the routes .

The F4-F6 are over crowded and a general nightmare. I use to take them ever day. With the demand, I am not sure if you can completely replace them, but certainly deal with the crowding issue.

You might not need the one seat ride from Greenbelt to Suitland via light rail, but new carrolton to the blue line is important, and the blue line to the green line is very important. Even if the purple line didnt continue but rather had a transfer at New Carrolton to a "pink" line or something that went down to Andrews and hit the orange, blue and green lines it would still have a lot of use. Running them both from one maintenance facility would be nice, even if the bridge over the NEC was non revenue track. Still once you build it, I dont know why it can't be revenue track.

by Richard on Mar 20, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

I think the desire to extend the purple line south of New Carrollton is to connect with the Woodmont TC, the potential redevelopment of the Landover Mall site (See Landover Gateway Plan in PG County), and the possibly expanding Largo TC (yes that's on Metro but the other 2 nodes are not).

by Gull on Mar 20, 2014 2:53 pm • linkreport

I think the desire to extend the purple line south of New Carrollton is to connect with the Woodmont TC, the potential redevelopment of the Landover Mall site (See Landover Gateway Plan in PG County), and the possibly expanding Largo TC (yes that's on Metro but the other 2 nodes are not).
I think it makes the most sense to keep it inside the beltway, at least until you get down to Andrews, National Harbor, or the Wilson Bridge.

The landover mall and Fedex field though could be added easily.

by Richard on Mar 20, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

@ Richard

If it goes near Fedex Field it must have dedicated lanes or above/under ground cause it will not get through the parking lot or the area on time on game days. I have been on the A12 & F14 Metrobuses before, during and after games and they are always got stuck in stadium traffic.

by kk on Mar 20, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

If it goes near Fedex Field it must have dedicated lanes or above/under ground cause it will not get through the parking lot or the area on time on game days. I have been on the A12 & F14 Metrobuses before, during and after games and they are always got stuck in stadium traffic.

It's light rail, it will have a dedicated lane at all times. It will cross some streets at grade, but generally always have priority.

Baltimore's light rail blue line has a few problems with drunks around camden yards, but they are minor and mostly an issue when they happen 60 times a year. Fedex field has games 8 times a year. The blue line never has problems around M&T bank.

by Richard on Mar 20, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

@Richard

Let me rephrase that dedicated lanes which cars etc can not use; The Baltimore Lightrail has traffic that operates on the tracks it should have none of that.

by kk on Mar 20, 2014 5:11 pm • linkreport

@David A - Very cool. Sadly, it doesn't appear MNCPPC has posted an equivalent site for PG County yet. Or am I just missing something?

by Distantantennas on Mar 20, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

I think it would be good to extend the Purple Line to the west too. Someday. The extension could connect the job and residential centers of the Red Line and Tysons/Falls Church/Arlington. That could cut down on many car trips along the NW section of the Beltway.

In the current system, it's impractical to commute between Bethesda and Tysons on MetroRail, having to travel all the way to downtown DC, then transferring lines and traveling out to Northern Virginia. (This is assuming that the Silver Line even opens any time soon.)

This extension may never happen, but I hope it does.

by Citizen on Mar 20, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

Some day in the future when this whole transit fear is a think of the past, I'd bet the Purple line will be a segment of a circular line around the whole city. I hope.

by Thayer-D on Mar 21, 2014 6:09 am • linkreport

The Redskins will have left FedEx long before even the planned leg of the Purple Line is built, so....

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Mar 21, 2014 8:22 am • linkreport

Light rail is quiet, and the cars quite attractive. Norfolk opened theirs in 2012. people are already considering extensions. http://www.gohrt.com/services/the-tide

by Daniel B Peacock on Mar 21, 2014 9:46 pm • linkreport

They need to feng shui that proposed building design, that is not a good shape.

by asffa on Mar 24, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

The problem with new carrolton is that it is hardly pedestrian accessible. Getting to the office parks or residential area that are just a mile or so as the crow flies is simply not possible. Beltway and 50hem it in.

by egk on Mar 27, 2014 12:53 pm • linkreport

@egk

If the beltway and Route 50 were gone it would still be a problem due to the rail tracks and street layout

The rail tracks present a problem that can not be fixed unless many bridges or tunnels are built. Simply put they are only a few bridges built everywhere you can look at any major city that has rails in it unless they are underground they always present a mobility problem.

Most roads in the area (i'am talking about PG County as whole) are winding roads that are not straight paths to anywhere. Annapolis & Greenbelt Roads are winding and curve all over the place adding distance to wherever a pedestrian has to walk. Pedestrians like to take the shortest path which these streets and sidewalks are not.

by kk on Mar 27, 2014 5:21 pm • linkreport

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