County legislators are resisting efforts by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to delay construction of a second entrance for the Bethesda Metrorail station.
In his proposal for the county’s six-year capital spending plan, Leggett said he wants to defer $43.7 million in project funding over the next four years. A committee of the Montgomery County Council took a key vote Monday to recommend deferring only $15.9 million of that funding.
Leggett’s delay drew immediate criticism from transportation activists and business leaders. Construction of the entrance is key to Purple Line operations, the critics say, and a delay would send a signal that the project is no longer a county priority.
The recommendation by the transportation committee would delay construction funding by a year, to fiscal 2016, but the move would keep the project on track for the expected start of the Purple Line in 2020.
Leggett and some officials have said it makes little sense to start building the entrance because the Purple Line may not start in 2020 anyway. They point out that the necessary federal funding to build the Purple Line is not guaranteed. State officials hope the federal government will agree to pay for half the estimated $1.93 billion to construct the Purple Line .
But Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) said in a press conference Monday that the county still needs to “double down” in order to convince the federal government to provide the project funding.
Meanwhile, the state has raised its cost estimates for the project — to $80.5 million from $60 million. In order to make up for the increase, the committee also wants to inject $48 million in construction funding in fiscal year 2017 and 2018, followed by another $3 million in future years.