“Their question will be, ‘If you needed the money two years ago, why didn’t you get the revenue then?’ ” Gaines said.
Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the state, since 2002, has spent $105.8 million on preliminary engineering and environmental studies for a Purple Line. It has spent an additional $123.5 million on planning for a new 14-mile light-rail Red Line in Baltimore.
Maryland’s recently released capital budget plan for transportation would cut off funding to both projects after June 30 if no tax increase was approved by then. That would leave both projects on hold before reaching final design.
Work to begin preliminary engineering on a 15-mile dedicated busway in the heavily congested Interstate 270 corridor — a project known as the Corridor Cities Transitway — also would be put on hold if a tax proposal failed, according to the capital budget plan.
Work done on the projects so far could be resuscitated once state money is available, planners said, though some studies would need to be updated after three years. Even so, state officials say, they’re concerned that the Federal Transit Administration will have turned its attention to dozens of other projects nationwide competing for relatively scarce financial aid.
“Momentum is vitally important,” said Leif Dormsjo, Maryland’s acting deputy transportation secretary. “The costs associated with these projects, the political support, the complexity of bringing people together — it all requires steady and concentrated effort.”
Federal officials would not comment specifically on Maryland’s transit projects. But one FTA official said any “lack of progress” in obtaining “firm funding commitments” from state or local governments “could be one factor that contributes to a project falling behind others.” The official said FTA policy prohibited his being quoted by name.
When — or if — a Purple Line is built will help shape the Maryland suburbs, as Montgomery and Prince George’s planners have begun to factor it into long-term plans.
Montgomery officials are trying to accommodate population growth without increasing traffic congestion by allowing taller buildings to be built near light-rail stations. Prince George’s officials have said they are hopeful that Purple Line stations would encourage economic development and help rejuvenate older inside-the-Beltway communities, such as Riverdale Park and College Park.
But business leaders say developers won’t risk that kind of investment until funding is certain.
“I’m not saying the money would have to start flowing next Monday,” said Farasy, the Prince George’s Purple Line advocate, who develops apartment buildings. “But people need to know it’s coming so they can plan on it.”