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Purple Line will open first between College Park and New Carrollton, state says

An artist’s rendering of the Purple Line light-rail trains in Maryland. (Purple Line Transit Partners)

The first part of the Purple Line will open in late 2022 in a five-mile stretch between the New Carrollton and College Park-U of Md. Metro stations in Prince George’s County, Maryland transit officials said Thursday.

State officials previously had said the light-rail line under construction between Bethesda and New Carrollton would have to open first on the eastern end because trains will need to use the rail yard and maintenance facility in Glenridge. However, they hadn’t said how far west the first segment would reach.

The rest of the 16-mile line extending to Montgomery County is scheduled to open six months later, by late June 2023, said Charles Lattuca, head of project delivery for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA).

Purple Line will open in two phases, with first in Prince George’s, officials say

The entire line, with 21 stations, was initially scheduled to open in March 2022. However, state officials have said an unsuccessful lawsuit and construction delays pushed back the full line’s opening until 2023. Lattuca announced the two-phase opening in September, saying the state wanted passengers to ride at least part of the line in 2022.

“We thought if we can get some Purple Line benefits by the end of 2022, that helps us,” Lattuca said.

The first segment will link Metro’s Green, Yellow and Orange lines, as well as MARC commuter rail’s Penn and Camden lines. It also will serve the Amtrak station in New Carrollton.

In addition to the Metro stations on both ends, the first Purple Line stops will be, from west to east: Riverdale Park North-UMD, Riverdale Park-Kenilworth, Beacon Heights-East Pines and Glenridge. The first segment will not include the University of Maryland campus.

Lattuca said College Park was the most logical western terminus because that Purple Line stop will have crossover tracks to allow light-rail vehicles to turn around.

The part of the Purple Line west of College Park will take more time because it connects to the busy Silver Spring Transit Center, requires moving more underground utility lines and entails work along the CSX freight-rail tracks, Lattuca said.

“It’s a little bit more complex,” he said.

While the first segment would offer limited service for six months, local officials in Prince George’s cheered the news, saying their residents are eager to ride. The east-west line is designed to provide faster, more reliable public transportation than buses and spur redevelopment around stations, particularly in Prince George’s.

“People in College Park are very excited about the seeing the Purple Line come,” said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn. “I’d love to see it extend to the [University of Maryland] campus right away, but I understand the logistical challenge.”

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Prince George’s County Council member Dannielle M. Glaros (D-District 3) said residents in her district have been closely watching construction, including the aerial station going up on Riverdale Road near Kenilworth Avenue.

“People are excited,” Glaros said. Late 2022 “doesn’t seem that far off.”

Alan K. Thompson, mayor of Riverdale Park, said the Purple Line’s full benefits will come when residents can ride it to the University of Maryland and to Silver Spring for work, shopping and restaurants.

Even so, Thompson said, “I’m glad to hear we’re going to be part of the first segment. . . . I think a lot of people will appreciate being able to get to other parts of the county quickly.”

Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker (D-District 5), chairman of the transportation committee, said Montgomery residents will be disappointed to hear their part will open more than a year behind schedule.

But if they know the sequencing was driven by the Purple Line rail yard’s location in Prince George’s, Hucker said, “I think they’ll understand. . . . Everyone is eager to experience the benefits of it.”

Lattuca said the state is still discussing with the contractor, Purple Line Transit Partners, how much each side will pay to make up for some of the construction delays. The team of companies is building the line and will operate it under a 36-year public-private partnership.

“I think we’re close” to an agreement, Lattuca said. “But I can’t tell you exactly when it will be done.”

The private consortium has said delays have added at least $300 million to the $2 billion contract construction cost. However, Maryland officials have said the contractor is responsible for some of the problems.

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