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Chevy Chase Says Buses Beat Trains on Purple Line

Leaders from the Town of Chevy Chase said yesterday that a recently released study shows a cheaper bus rapid transit system would be more likely to receive federal funding for a Purple Line than a light rail proposal.

Town leaders, who have objected to rail line along the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, said the report supports their contention that rapid buses running along Jones Bridge Road north of the trail would be more cost effective.

Leaders said the study, released by a Montgomery planning board committee this week, shows that the state could build lanes and purchase buses for both a Purple Line and a Corridor Cities Transitway along the Interstate 270 corridor for less than $1 billion total. By comparison, a light rail Purple Line alone is estimated to cost as much as $1.8 billion.

Maryland transit officials have said they can't afford to build either without significant federal money. With transit projects around the country competing for federal dollars, the Federal Transit Administration evaluates them based on cost-effectiveness, among other considerations.

State transit officials could not be reached late yesterday. In a June meeting with Post editorial writers, they said they are still evaluating both options but said light rail would attract more riders than bus rapid transit and meets federal cost-effectiveness requirements.

A 16-mile Purple Line would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton. The Maryland Transit Administration is wrapping up a draft study of potential routes while comparing light rail and bus rapid transit options.

The state is expected to submit its preferred alternative to the Federal Transit Administration this spring.

--Katherine Shaver

By Phyllis Jordan  |  July 25, 2008; 6:25 AM ET
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