Maryland's plan to build a 16-mile light rail line from Bethesda to New Carrollton got a big lift from the federal government today.
The Purple Line is on the list of transit projects federal transportation officials say should receive funding from Congress. Therese McMillan, the acting head of the Federal Transit Administration, announced the agency is recommending the Purple Line receive $100 million next fiscal year in a conference call with reporters today. That's a key step toward satisfying Maryland's request for nearly $1 billion federal construction dollars.
"The project to date we think has cleared enough steps and requirements and milestones to be able to enter into the full funding grant agreement with us," McMillan said.
The Purple Line will compete with other transit projects across the country for federal funding. Overall the administration is proposing $2.5 billion for 26 projects in 16 states next fiscal year.
Joshua Schank at the Eno Center for Transportation, a D.C.-based think tank, said the Purple Line is in a good position.
"Typically Congress respects the U.S. [Department of Transportation's] recommendation on these projects because it is part of a process that has been developed over the past 30 years," Schank said.
Henry Kay, a top official at the Maryland Transit Administration, said the recommendation to fund to Purple Line is important because the $2.4 billion project can't be built without federal dollars.
"The federal funds are a critical part, so we are counting on being able to finalize this full funding grant agreement as part of the financial plan for the project," Kay said.
More than 100 homes and businesses would be displaced by the Purple Line's construction. The state is preparing to start purchasing those properties, but also faces the possibility of lawsuits from communities opposed to having the light rail system come through their neighborhoods.