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Maryland wins $1.5 million federal grant for development near Purple Line

Federal funds will help to plan for affordable housing, along with bike and pedestrian connections to stations.

A steel structure that will hold elevated light-rail tracks through downtown Silver Spring in October 2020. (Katherine Shaver/The Washington Post)

Maryland was awarded a $1.5 million federal transportation grant Thursday to support the development of homes, offices and shops near the Purple Line light rail.

The money from the Federal Transit Administration is to be used to plan for mixed-use development, the preservation of existing retail, affordable housing and access for cyclists and pedestrians along the 16-mile line that will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The grant, one of 19 awarded nationally, totaling $13.1 million, is from a long-running federal pilot program that was expanded by the infrastructure law. It was designed to spur construction near transit hubs, providing options for people to live and work without relying on cars for daily errands.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement the grants would mean “more communities will be able to develop the areas around their transit stations, which will mean stronger local economies, cleaner air, and better access to the essential services families rely on.”

Officials with the Maryland Transit Administration didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday about plans for the money.

Experts say dense development near transit stations is key to the success of such systems, bringing people and destinations within easy reach, but note that increasing land values can also spur gentrification and price out longtime residents.

As Purple Line construction resumes, the fight against gentrification is on

There are already signs the Purple Line is helping to attract investment in the older suburbs it passes through.

This month, Prince George’s County and University of Maryland leaders announced plans to develop a publicly owned parking lot into a mix of housing and retail near the College Park Metro station, which is at a future Purple Line station.

At the same time, planners and local officials have been working since 2013 to ensure that growth doesn’t come at the expense of existing residents.

The Purple Line has been subject to repeated delays and cost overruns. The project is projected to open four years behind schedule, in 2026, and cost $3.4 billion.