A study commissioned by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties estimates that the Purple Line light-rail project through the District’s Maryland suburbs would generate more than 40,000 permanent and temporary jobs, add tens of millions of dollars to the region’s tax rolls and boost property values by the billions.
The 81-page report by Frederick-based Transportation Economics & Management Systems (TEMS) is based on an analysis of job markets, transportation patterns, land prices and demographics along the planned 16-mile line that would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton.
The Purple Line would create “opportunities to fundamentally change the character of business in the area while expanding the level of social, personal and tourist interaction,” the study concludes.
The report lands just a few weeks before Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is expected to decide on the fate of the long-planned and debated transit venture. Hogan has balked at the $2.45 billion cost, which would be borne by the state with help from an anticipated $900 million in federal grant money. The state would build and operate the line in partnership with one of several teams of private companies that are bidding on the project.
Officials say Hogan will review cost-cutting proposals from those bidders and a state analysis before making a final decision by mid-May.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn told WAMU (88.5 FM) last month that killing the project outright remains a possibility “if it doesn’t pencil out to the governor’s satisfaction.”
Rahn did not specify how much of a cost reduction would be required.
The study released Monday is the latest in a series of appeals from local political, corporate and civic leaders hoping to play to Hogan’s pro-business sensibilities by touting the economic benefits of the project.
Former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman Augustine, who chairs the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, wrote to Hogan in March and urged him to support the plan.
Economic Partners of the Purple Line, an ad hoc developer group organized by the Chevy Chase Land Co., which has holdings near one of the line’s proposed stations, has also made its case to the governor, as have opponents from community organizations who are concerned about the project’s environmental impact.
Some experts remain skeptical about the economic value of light rail. Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, said at a Silver Spring forum last month that the Washington region already has among the least-utilized buses in the country.
“If you can’t fill your buses, why do you need trains?” he said.
But the report commissioned by the counties projects that improved access to communities along the Purple Line route could generate 27,000 jobs, along with $635 million annually in increased federal and state income tax and property tax payments.
The report also said the project would create 4,000 full-time construction jobs each year during the estimated five-year building schedule.