Legislators Push Purple Line
Seems like there's no point in the history of a transit project that can't be described as pivotal or crucial or crisis. This is such a [fill in the blank] time for Maryland's Purple Line transitway.
Civic and political leaders, led by state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, met at the Langley Park Crossroads at noon today to rally support for the line and announce formation of a state legislative caucus to advance the cause.
Despite opposition centered in communities that would be most affected by the footprint of the light rail track or busway, the Purple Line does have an impressive array of local backers from one end of its route to the other.
It will need them. It's been just days since the project issued its draft environmental impact statement (see Post story) and next month, there will be four public hearings to discuss which, if any, construction option the state should choose. There's a billion bucks or so riding on the result -- and so is the course of development across the inner suburbs of Washington.
Overlaying that discussion is the one about the state of our economy and how best to spend government revenues that are almost certain to shrink over the next couple of years. I've heard from readers who question whether Maryland should continue spending to build the inner county connector -- a tremendous draw on transportation resources -- when we could spread that money around to other projects. Others question whether the Purple Line will itself suck up too much money.
Porcari urges citizens and government to think big about the transportation system and the Purple Line in particular. He says we need both the connector road and the transitway. Plus, he notes, the choice about connector road isn't really a choice anymore since so many of the contracts have been let and construction is so far advanced. (You've got to see the work from the air to get the right perspective, he said.)
The draft environmental impact statement lays out a set of alternatives ranging from doing nothing to building a lower-cost bus system to building a high-end light rail line. Porcari wouldn't name a favorite, but he said that whatever the state decides to do, it should not be done with short term economics as the driving factor.
Our region's growth may slow for a year or two, but longterm, it's heading toward immense and dense. Choices we make in the next few months about a transitway will expand or limit the region's potential over many decades.
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