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Purple Line (Maryland)

The Purple Line, previously designated as the Bi-County Transitway, is a proposed 16-mile (25 km) transit line to link the Red, Green, and Orange lines of the Washington Metro transportation system in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.[1] The project is administered by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). On October 7, 2011 the proposed light rail line received Federal Transit Administration approval to enter the detailed engineering phase which, according to the Washington Post, is "a significant step forward in its decades-long trek toward construction."[2]


The Purple Line was conceived as a rail line from New Carrollton to Silver Spring. Maryland's Glendening administration (which included John Porcari as Secretary of Transportation) removed the heavy rail option from planning discussion because it was felt that the cost was greater than the need.

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now a short CSX siding and the Capital Crescent Trail) to Bethesda.[3]

Both Governor Ehrlich and Secretary Flanagan introduced an alternative mode – bus rapid transit — that might have been utilized in lieu of light rail transit. To reflect this possibility, the administration changed the name of the project to the "Bi-County Transitway" in March 2003. Another reason that "the Purple Line" was discouraged by the Ehrlich administration was that its associations with the other color-oriented names of the Washington Metro system (which consists of heavy rail) might lead the public to expect a heavy rail option. The new name did not catch on, however, as several media outlets and most citizens continued to refer to the project as the Purple Line. As a result, Governor Martin O'Malley and Secretary of Transportation John Porcari opted to revert to "Purple Line" in 2007.[4]

In January 2008, the O'Malley administration allocated $100 million within a six-year capital budget to complete design documents for state approval and funding of the Purple Line.[5] In May 2008, it was reported that the Purple Line could carry about 68,000 daily trips.[6]

A draft environmental impact study was issued on October 20, 2008.[7] On December 22, 2008, Montgomery County planners endorsed building a light rail line rather than a bus line. On January 15, 2009, the county planning board also endorsed the light rail option,[8] and County Executive Isiah Leggett has also expressed support.[9] On October 21, 2009, members of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the Purple Line light rail project for inclusion into the region’s Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan.[10]

Even though the project is overseen by the SmarTrip farecard.[11] Metro's 2008 annual report asks readers to imagine that in 2030 the Purple Line will be integrated with WMATA's existing transit system.[12][13]


  • State government
    • Maryland Transit Administration
    • Purple Line Conceptual Plans: Project Area Map MTA Maryland
  • County government
    • Montgomery County Planning Department
  • Maps
    • Washington Post map – dated January 31, 2009, based on updated MTA proposed stations
    • Sierra Club Proposed Route – full loop not actually being studied
  • Advocates
    • Rail
      • ACT Purple Line Page
      • Purple Line Now!
      • Prince George's Advocates for Community-based Transit
      • Sierra Club proposal
    • Rail/Bus
      • College Park Informational Page
  • Opponents
    • Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coalition, also known as Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail

External links


See also

  • A not for profit local organization, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, has been collecting signatures on a petition opposing the MTA's Purple Line proposals since 2003 and filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia in 2014 asserting failure by the Federal Transit Administration to comply with Federal environmental laws in initially approving a grant to help build the Purple Line. The organization's website explains that the MTA's light rail and bus rapid transit proposals will have significant environmental and safety impacts on the [35] Save the Trail Petition prefers alternatives, however, noting that a Jones Bridge Road alignment would also have some impact on the trail.[33]
  • A leading opponent of the Purple Line was the Columbia Country Club, a golf course with land that occupies both sides of the planned route between Bethesda and Silver Spring.[36] Newly elected leaders of the Club signed an agreement not to oppose the Purple Line if its route were adjusted by 12 feet.
  • Opponents in the Town of Chevy Chase cited the town's study of bus rapid transit alternatives. The study estimated a cost of less than $1 billion for a bus rapid transit system, compared with an estimated cost of $1.8 billion for light rail.[37] A 2011 news report placed the cost of the rail line at US$1.93 billion.[38]
  • Residents around the Dale Wayne stop are concerned that doubling the size of the road, along with the county's "smart growth" policy around transit stops, will encourage commercial development in a residential neighborhood. Their concerns have also questioned whether the 1,427 daily boardings anticipated by the MTA by 2030 is a realistic figure for the Dale station.[39][40]

Opposition to rail

  • A 2008 study by Sam Schwartz Engineering for the Town of Chevy Chase supported bus rapid transit using an alternate Jones Bridge Road alignment. The Chevy Chase study expressed concerns about the expected ridership numbers, carbon footprint, interruptions in recreation pathways, and the cost of bus and light rail proposals by the MTA involving a Capital Crescent Trail alignment. Although a Jones Bridge Road alignment was also proposed by the MTA, the study noted that features typical of bus rapid transit that were missing from the MTA proposal.[33]

Support for bus

  • Purple Line Now is a non-profit specifically dedicated to advocating for the inside the beltway light rail Purple Line from Bethesda to New Carrollton integrated with a hiker/biker trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring.[22]
  • The Action Committee for Transit is a community group that supports the Purple Line.[18]
  • The Washington Post advocates construction of the Purple Line light rail option.[23]
  • The Montgomery County Council and Prince George's County Council voted unanimously in favor of the light rail option for the Purple Line in January 2009.[24][25]
  • Maryland state officials (including Governor Martin O'Malley, D-MD) are also strong Purple Line advocates. State officials say that a Purple Line, which would run primarily above ground, "would provide better east-west transit service, particularly for lower-income workers who can't afford cars."[26]
  • The development firm Chevy Chase Land Co. is a strong proponent of the construction of the Purple Line. The website for the pro-Purple umbrella group Purple Line NOW! lists Edward Asher as a member of its board of directors. The Washington Post indicates that the development firm would "no doubt profit from property it owns near at least one of the proposed stations."[26]
  • The Sierra Club advocates a larger-scale rail system to parallel the Capital Beltway and link all existing Metro lines at their peripheries. This environmental group advocates rail transit over car use because carbon emissions are a major risk factor for global warming.[27]
  • Some student leaders (the Student Government Association and Graduate Student Government) at the University of Maryland support transit alternatives to campus.[28][29]
  • On January 27, 2009, the Montgomery County Council voted to support the light rail option.[30] Governor O'Malley announced his own approval on August 4, 2009.[31]
  • The vice president of trail development for the Rails to Trails conservancy has gone on record citing rail-trail combinations around the country and arguing that with proper design, the trail-purple-line combination can be "among the best in the nation." [32]

Support for rail

Community support and opposition

An advocacy group known as "The Inner Purple Line Campaign" has stated that the Purple Line could be extended westward to Tysons Corner and eastward to Largo, and that it could eventually cross the new Wilson Bridge from Suitland through Oxon Hill to Alexandria, eventually forming a rail line that encircles the city.[18] The reconstruction of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-495's southern crossing over the Potomac River) provides capacity for the bridge to carry a heavy or light rail line.[19] Suggested stops along this proposed Purple Line expansion include:[20]

Although the majority of discussions about the Purple Line describe the project as a 16-mile east-west line between Bethesda and New Carrollton,[1] there have been several proposals to expand the line further into Maryland or to mirror the Capital Beltway as a loop around the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Sierra Club has argued for a Purple Line which would "encircle Washington, D.C." and "connect existing suburban metro lines."[16] Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown, while campaigning in 2006, similarly stated that he'd "like to see the Purple Line go from Bethesda to across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge," adding, "Let’s swing that boy all the way around" (a reference to having the Purple Line circle through Virginia and back to the line's point of origin in Bethesda).[17]

Potential further expansion

The following stations are part of the "Locally Preferred Alternative" route approved by Governor Martin O'Malley on August 9, 2009:[15]

The planned rail or rapid bus line will connect the existing Metro, MARC commuter rail, and Amtrak stations at:[1]

A map of the proposed Purple Line routes including alternative alignments

Route and station locations


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