Montgomery County has deferred $43.6 million previously allocated in the county’s six-year spending plan to build a second entrance to the Bethesda Metrorail station. Officials say the money isn’t needed until funding for a Purple Line’s construction is secured.

The move drew immediate criticism from local transit activists. The Action Committee for Transit said the second entrance is necessary before a Purple Line’s construction “to give Bethesda commuters a badly needed alternative” to the station’s “increasingly unreliable escalators” scheduled for replacement in two years.

County officials have said the new high-speed elevators are primarily intended to connect the underground Metrorail station with a street-level Purple Line system. However, state transit officials are still seeking highly competitive federal funding to help cover half of a Purple Line’s estimated $1.93 billion in construction costs. The 16-mile light rail line would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton, via Silver Spring and College Park.

County spokeswoman Esther Bowring said Montgomery still plans to spend $53.62 million to build the second set of elevators, but that money is now shown in spending plans beyond fiscal 2018.

The current six-year plan, which covers fiscal 2013 through fiscal 2018, includes $5.63 million for the project. That money will be used for engineering work during preliminary design, Bowring said.