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Purple Line Enters New Phase of Design

Over a decade ago, the Purple Line was proposed by the Maryland Transit Association (MTA) to link the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. Previously dubbed the Bi-County Transitway, the 16-mile transit line that networks the Red, Orange, and Green lines in the Washington Metro Area was approved by the Federal Transit Administration in 2007 and renamed the Purple Line. The construction of the line has entered its detailed engineering phase which the Washington Post cites as “a significant step forward in its decades-long trek to construction.”

Projected to be completed in 2020, the Purple Line has thus far been mapped to stretch from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, a route that is expected to take just over an hour to travel from end to end. The Washington Post estimates that the construction of the line will cost $2.45 billion and, once in operation, will cost $38 million annually to maintain.

Unlike preexisting lines in the D.C. area, the Purple Line is not under the ownership of Metro and varies in several key features. The heavy-rail Metro system requires larger stations and travels predominantly underground due to its bulk while the light-rail design of the Purple Line is meant to navigate through the bustling streets of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties aboveground. The Purple Line will travel on land for the most part and has trains that are at most two cars long in contrast to the typical six-to-eight-car Metro trains. Rather than turnstile ticketing, the makers of the Maryland Transit Association have opted to operate based on an honor system in which ticketed customers are allowed to come and go as they please but ticket enforcement is carried out by officers doing random checks. Though the MTA is overseeing construction and owns the project, officials plan to assimilate the line into the complex of Metro’s existing transit system.

In the early stages of the line’s planning, controversy erupted over incorporating the College Park campus onto the route. School officials feared that the proposed route for the line would tarnish a peaceful pedestrian walking mall in the middle of campus and were opposed to cars and transit vehicles polluting the area. Dozens of university student, faculty, alumni and community members protested until a compromise was reached — the line will run through College Park but will be moved to North campus to ensure a pedestrian-oriented middle strip.

“I think it’s a great idea that the Purple Line will run through the College Park campus,” UMCP junior Katie Weng said. “I think the accessibility of the line will encourage many future Terps to take advantage of how convenient it is.”

Although the project has been underway for over a decade, recent Maryland Governor-elect Larry Hogan promised to jettison the plans for the Purple and Red Lines early in his gubernatorial campaign. Hogan upheld that the money being put into the construction and future maintenance of the lines would be better spend elsewhere. The possibility of Hogan killing the lines has delayed construction until March and concerns have risen in the community over the labor and money that will be wasted if he halts the project. Since winning the race for governor, Hogan has declined to explicitly comment on his intentions.


Article by the MoCo Student staff writer Catherine Yang of Wootton High School

Graphic by the MoCo Student graphic artist Natasha Campbell of Blair High School 

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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