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Where's the green for Maryland's Purple Line light rail?

Monday, January 17, 2011; 9:48 PM

I read the Jan. 12 editorial "Hit the brakes," on the questionable rush to build a high-speed rail system in California, and immediately thought many of the same issues and objections were appropriate for the Maryland Purple Line. The Purple Line (which has no connection to Washington's Metro system) is a good proposal on paper but "still a bit half baked," as the editorial suggested the California plan is.

From what I gathered at hearings and meetings I attended, the Purple Line light rail between New Carrollton and Bethesda has an undefined business model, lacks a clear financial plan and has unreliable ridership estimates, to list a few similarities. Neither would the Purple Line take many cars off Washington's congested roads.

Half of the Purple Line's cost will be paid for with federal funds, but Maryland Mass Transit Administration officials still have to answer critically important questions about the operations, maintenance and user fare costs for the 16-mile line with a $1.68 billion price tag.

Washingtonians have a collective vision of a well-run, adequately funded rail and bus Metro system that serves the entire region. The Maryland project should have to fill in the economic and logistical blanks before any more money is spent. The rule seems to be: Spend federal construction dollars first and answer questions about Maryland's share of Metro's funding and the Purple Line's operations, maintenance and rider fees later.

Pat Garvey, Bethesda

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