Don’t bottleneck the Purple Line
March 3, 2021
The Purple Line will be an economic development engine for Montgomery County.
Connecting Maryland’s biggest university, UMD, with Montgomery County’s downtowns and Metro corridors, it is the kind of infrastructure change that will foster smart growth and prosperity.
I got my start in the County pushing for the Purple Line — in fact I pledged 15 years ago to “Build the Purple Line or Die Trying.”
So you’ll understand that I am concerned that the County Executive has renewed his 2009 proposal to weaken the Purple Line.
Specifically, Mr. Elrich has proposed that rather than having a two way tunnel with tracks in each direction, we’ll have a one way train tunnel into downtown Bethesda. Trains would have to wait on either end for the tunnel to clear before entering.
In other words, we would build a bottleneck into Bethesda.
With a bottleneck, we’d be unable to increase the number of trains operating on the Purple Line to the full capacity that we need. The effects of this proposal are clear:
- Without more frequent trains, we won’t be able to increase ridership
- Fewer riders means more drivers, traffic, and climate killing emissions
- The financial case for the whole project detoriates because the entire multi-billion dollar investment is based on robust ridership
We already have one massively problematic bottleneck in our County’s regional transportation network, the American Legion Bridge — which thankfully is about to be addressed.
We shouldn’t create another one intentionally.
Yes, this year’s Capital Budget is not an easy one, and the County Executive did not have easy choices to make. We rarely do.
The solution is for the Council to prioritize the Purple Line while completing the trail under Wisconsin Avenue.
The County has a lot riding on it. Just like the American Legion Bridge, these kinds of transportation network failures make it harder to live or locate a business here.
I care so much about this because the Purple Line is essential to my vision for driving economic growth, as I outlined in my 5 Point Plan to Power Up Montgomery County’s Economy.
Since taking over the chair of the Economic Development Committee, I have focused a lot of energy and attention on the role of research and innovation in driving our economic development.
We are fortunate to have the University System of Maryland’s Shady Grove campus here as well as Montgomery College, but we do not have a flagship four year university inside our boundaries.
That is why we should integrate closely with UMD. Combined with our Federal labs such as NIH, FDA, and NIST, we can leverage our research institutions more powerfully, as communities like Boston or the Bay Area have done successfully.
To achieve that goal, we must not only work with UMD or NIH programmatically but also reduce the physical distance however we can through transportation improvements.
The Purple Line runs right through UMD’s campus and then into downtown Silver Spring and downtown Bethesda, ending at the Metro where it will be a reasonably quick transfer up the Metro Red Line tech corridor.
That’s a future growth strategy, and running more trains on the Purple Line — as well as the Metro, which I have also been pushing for, helping to end the turnbacks on the Red Line — is an essential component.