After Near-Death Experiences, Maryland’s Purple Line Light Rail Breaks Ground

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan inks the deal on Maryland's long planned "Purple Line" light rail. Photo:  Greater Greater Washington
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan inks the deal on Maryland's long planned "Purple Line" light rail. Photo: Greater Greater Washington

The decades-long saga of the Maryland Purple Line reached a happy milestone yesterday.

The 16-mile circumferential light rail line connecting DC’s Maryland suburbs was first envisioned in the 1980s. After years of patient advocacy brought the Purple Line to the verge of construction, it had to withstand a few near-death experiences to get to this point.

Yesterday was the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on hand. Dan Reed of Greater Greater Washington recaps:

The 16-mile long light rail line will run between Bethesda and New Carrollton and have 21 stations, including transfers at four Metro stations. The $2 billion project will include a mix of federal, state, and county funding. There has been no shortage of setbacks for the project since it was first proposed in 1986, but the project was largely a go by 2014, when Governor Hogan took office. Shortly after, he put the project on hold for nearly a year to find cost-cutting measures, and asked Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to pay a higher share of the cost. (At the same time, Hogan cancelled the Baltimore Red Line, which had been up for federal funding as well.)

Another year was lost after a judge voided the project’s approval last summer in a lawsuit from a group of residents in Chevy Chase. The project was close to losing its federal funding when an appeals court restored the approval last month.

It’s also notable as the nation’s largest transit project built through a public-private partnership, or when a private company works with the government. Purple Line Transit Partners, a consortium of private companies, will build and operate the project in exchange for payments from the state for the next 35 years. It’s something the Republican administration wants to encourage, and Secretary Chao said it could be a model for other projects around the nation.

There are a few dark clouds to this silver lining, however. One, as Reed mentioned, is Hogan’s decision to spike the Red Line in Baltimore. The other is the current White House’s hostility toward federal funding for transit expansion. If the Trump administration gets its way, the Purple Line could be one of the last transit projects to get federal support while he’s in office.

More recommended reading today: Systemic Failure reports that Ville Platte, Louisiana, where three black men were charged with misdemeanors after they were hit by a truck driver last week, has a history of criminalizing how people of color get around. And Green Caltrain looks at how Palo Alto reduced solo car commuting among downtown service workers.


Maryland Governor Larry Hogan: Purple Line for DC, Bupkis for Baltimore

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says the Purple Line, a long-planned light rail expansion of the DC transit system in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, will move forward. But Hogan stiffed the people of Baltimore by canceling the Red Line in favor of road projects. Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington reports that Hogan made his announcement yesterday. […]

Abandoning Maryland’s Purple and Red Lines Would Cost a Lot

Since his election in November, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has been threatening to kill two major transit projects that are nearly ready to begin construction. Both the Purple Line and the Red Line are among the most significant transit expansions in the country right now. The Purple Line would extend D.C.’s Metro rail service into […]

Transit Scrooge Larry Hogan Wants to Spend $10B on DC-Baltimore Maglev

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has criticized the Purple Line and Red Line light rail projects, planned for Montgomery County and Baltimore, respectively, as too costly. Though he’s threatened to kill long-standing plans to expand the real-life DC and Baltimore transit systems, Hogan is totally into a flashy and very pricey non-existent project. David Alpert at Greater […]