October 2017 Update on the Purple Line

Now that ground has broken, you may be wondering what's left to do to make the Purple Line a reality? Turns out, quite a bit is going on and we need your help now that the difficult work of construction has begun. 

In the coming months, we will be gathering positive Purple Line stories - what are you looking forward to most about the Purple Line? How will it make your commute easier? Please share your story not only with us, but with the local news media. There will understandably be plenty of stories about the difficulties of construction, so we want to make sure we balance the scales and keep our eye on the purple prize! Take a moment to write a letter of support for the Purple Line to the editor of the Washington Post and help us make sure the community knows all of the benefits the light rail will bring to our area. Thank you in advance!

In the meantime, here are some items you may be interested in:

  • We are hoping to bring you news of the Community Advisory Team (CAT) meetings soon - we are told that all CAT neighborhood teams will have at least one meeting before the Thanksgiving holiday. Stay tuned - as soon as we get the full schedule, we'll publish links to the details.
  • If you weren't able to be at the Montgomery County Council Transportation Committee's briefing on the Purple Line with Purple Line Transit Partners (the concessionaire) and Maryland Transit Authority, here's a video of the meeting: Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment.
  • Are you looking for alternative biking routes now that the Georgetown Branch Trail has closed? Try this link from our good friends at WABA: Georgetown Branch Detour Options.
  • Action Committee for Transit's monthly meeting on October 10, 7:30 p.m. is free and open to the public. The topic this month is: Transit, Obesity, and Health with Jennifer Roberts from the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

And finally, some great ideas for upcoming events in Purple Line communities:

Purple Line NOW is working hard to bring you news of construction plans, an update on the ongoing lawsuit, as well as good news stories about the Purple Line in the coming months. As always, we exist because of your generosity - as we head into the autumn season, we hope that you'll remember Purple Line NOW in your giving plans. We are grateful for all of your help - what an exciting summer this has been!

Short Notice of Trail Closure Due to Long Delay from Court Case

The announcement of the closure of Georgetown Branch trail has led to concerns about notice, duration, and the alternatives available. Purple Line NOW supports calls for quality pedestrian and bicycle detours during construction on the Georgetown Branch trail. Although closure of the trail is disruptive to users, we remind everyone that this disruption will ultimately result in a light rail connection between Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton, and a finally completed Capital Crescent Trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda. The expanded and improved trail will be eight feet wide and paved along its entire length. It is also important to note that the interim Capital Crescent Trail has existed for so many years because transit advocates pushed decades ago for the purchase of the right-of-way for use as BOTH a hiker-biker trail and a light rail connection.

Unfortunately, the lawsuit filed by project opponents has delayed the onset of construction by a year, which has directly resulted in an accelerated construction timeline and a host of additional complications. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the project’s approval, and the District Court determined that the environmental complaints were without merit. However, legal vindication cannot restore the lost year - nearly a sixth of the estimated project time - nor the estimated $150 million cost of the delay, which were sacrificed in a relentless stalling campaign by project opponents.

We are sympathetic to citizen complaints about the Jones Mill detour route, and Purple Line NOW supports efforts to negotiate an official route through the Town of Chevy Chase that would mitigate many of these concerns. As this is being resolved, we would highlight the efforts of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, which has identified a range of preferable options immediately available to cyclists.

We have been hearing a range of questions from our members about the construction process, seeking explanation about the extent of the closure and information about when construction may affect their neighborhoods or business districts. The challenges and confusion resulting from lawsuit-induced delays also highlights the need for official mechanisms for coordinating between citizens, Maryland, and the concessionaire. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) initiated a process last year of Community Advisory Teams (CATS) that were put on hold due to the plaintiff lawsuit. We are hoping the CATS will provide a critical communication link between the project developers and the impacted communities and we wrote to the Maryland Department of Transportation before ground-breaking, urging them to convene these teams as soon as possible.

We have long anticipated that the onset of construction would bring new challenges, though in this case these were magnified by delays imposed by plaintiffs at every step of the process. Nonetheless, regardless of the source of these challenges, we intend to do our part to collect and share official statements and support the efforts of those seeking to mitigate disruptions while maximizing the benefit of this necessary east-west transit connection and completion of the hiker-biker trail network.

Breaking Ground and Giving Thanks

We want to bring you a re-cap of yesterday's amazing Purple Line groundbreaking. For those of you who weren't able to attend, here are some photos that capture the scene - you'll notice that there are a lot of smiles in these pictures! Speakers at the signing ceremony included U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Anthony Brown, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. The ceremony was emceed by none other than Maryland's Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn.


The event began just after 10 a.m. under sunny blue skies and a cool breeze. Secretary Rahn stepped up to the microphone and exclaimed, "We did it!" Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett gave a heartfelt and poignant tribute to our founder, the late Harry Sanders, describing Harry's ability to work across political and economic lines, as an activist rather than a politician, to bring attention to the much-needed project. Congressman Brown gave a cheerful shout out and thanks to Purple Line NOW for all the work our volunteers have done over years (decades!) to see the project through. 


Senator Van Hollen and Prince George's County Executive Baker extolled the virtues of the line, the teamwork that got the project to this day, and applauded all of the volunteers who made it so. Following the speeches, the Governor and Secretary Chao signed the Full Funding Grant Agreement before donning hard hats to break the ground that will begin the project.


Check out more photos at Purple Line NOW's Facebook page!


Purple Line NOW released a statement to the press just moments ago:

SILVER SPRING, Md. - Purple Line NOW is overflowing with joy and gratitude on the day of this long-awaited groundbreaking. President Ralph Bennett said, “Today was a day of celebration as Governor Larry Hogan and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao came together to reach agreement and start construction. We are thankful to the Governor and the Secretary, who along with our Congressional Delegation, have shown that both political parties can still work together to invest in the future. County Executives Leggett and Baker and our steadfast friends on the Montgomery and Prince George’s County Council also deserve credit for their advocacy and for their respective counties’ financial contribution to the project. Likewise, the Maryland General Assembly’s work took a key step by continuing to support the project in name and funding.” 

Bennett continued, “We’re also grateful for our public servants and their private sector partners: Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, the whole Maryland and Federal Transit Administration team, and Purple Line Transit Partners who kept things moving during the delays. If we see project manager Mike Madden, we’ll get him a cup of coffee, as the project converts from planning to reality.”
Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders is particularly inspired by the diversity of the coalition that came together to see the project through many challenges. “In our polarized age, I’m thankful to see business leaders and laborers, who came together to emphasize that this will be a jobs line. Colleges and universities, mayors and civic groups from around our region working together. Advocates with diverse causes: environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, transit and road supporters, side by side. Our board members have stood by this project through thick and thin. Just as the project will connect our communities, I will be forever grateful for the friendships that have made this project happen and have been binding our two counties and state together.”

Treasurer Tina Slater announced, “This is a great day and Purple Line NOW has plans to celebrate all advocates of the project in the coming weeks - we want to thank everyone that made this possible.” Tina went on to share a personal story, “I first joined Purple Line NOW when I was asked by its founder, Harry Sanders, who along with Ross Capon and many other advocates called for acquisition of the right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring nearly three decades ago. I’d like to thank all Purple Line NOW volunteers and members of other transit advocacy organizations. It is no exaggeration to say that we would not be here without your efforts. This project has been declared dead any number of times, but the faith and perseverance of citizen support saw it through. From those that went to Annapolis to those that have told your neighbors time and again about how the Purple Line will run from Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton, we all share this legacy. We are so proud of all of you.” 

Our attention now turns to making this the best project it can be. Stay tuned for next steps and details in the coming months. Thank you, thank you, thank you - each and every one. A great day for the Purple Line and for our community!

Did You Hear Today's TERRIFIC Purple Line News?!!

You may have heard the exciting news early this morning that the Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Purple Line will be signed soon!!

Purple Line NOW is brimming with anticipation that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has told Maryland officials that the Full Funding Grant Agreement for the project which was to have been signed in August 2016, will be signed next week. As always, we want to be cautious before we begin the celebrations, but rest assured, we will be back in touch as soon as the FFGA is officially signed! In the meantime, here's the scoop:

The signing of the FFGA will remove the LAST obstacle to the construction of the Purple Line by allowing Maryland to seek reimbursement from the $900 million in Federal matching funds. Purple Line NOW President Ralph Bennett elaborated, “With these assurance in hand, Maryland can move forward to start construction with far less uncertainty.” 

Ralph also added that we want to “thank all elected officials who have supported the project through this difficult year and before, and all loyal supporters of the project who have worked and waited for many years to reach this day. And, we want to commend MTA and Purple Line Transit Partners for their patience and hard work to get to this point.”

Purple Line Now Vice President Greg Sanders observed, “While nothing is certain until the paper is signed, it’s safe to say that Maryland is far closer to a groundbreaking than the last time we were on the eve of a federal signing. Preparatory work proceeded while the project was held up. Even after groundbreaking, there are challenges ahead to minimize the disruption inherent in a project of this magnitude.” 

Treasurer Tina Slater concluded, “Purple Line NOW looks forward to the day the trains will run, providing the mobility and benefits it promises and for which we have waited so long. In the meantime, we will work to keep supporters and the general public informed as the lawsuit concludes and as Maryland takes the next steps to connecting communities in our region.”

We'll keep you posted as the process plays out with any news for groundbreaking and celebrations, and of course, any stumbling blocks along the way. In the meantime, Purple Line NOW has partnered with the Coalition for Smarter Growth to host a Happy Hour to talk all things smart growth on August 31 from 6 pm - 7:30 pm at Bump N' Grind and you can bet we'll give you the latest news on the Purple Line project. If you can attend, send me a quick email and I'll add you to the list:

Thursday, August 31 | 6 pm - 7:30 pm
Bump N' Grind | 1200 East-West Highway, Silver Spring
[email protected]

Finally, despite all this good news, our work continues to make sure the project breaks ground and proceeds on the smoothest track possible. If you are able, please remember Purple Line NOW in your giving plans. We need your help as we move forward to making sure this project finally becomes a reality.

Cheers to all of us!

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