Major Events in the History of the Purple Line

The project has been debated and altered at length for the past 30 years


Published:

1983—CSX Transportation proposes abandonment of Georgetown Branch freight rail line running between Georgetown and Silver Spring.

1988—Montgomery County purchases approximately 7-mile section of Georgetown Branch right-of-way from District line to Silver Spring for $10 million. Portion from D.C. line to Bethesda is set aside for multiuse trail, while county transportation department receives jurisdiction over section east of Bethesda for construction of trail and transitway.

1990—County planning board approves amendment to Georgetown Branch Master Plan for construction of both trail and Bethesda-to-Silver Spring “trolley,” escalating battle over use of former railroad right-of-way.

1993—Maryland State Highway Administration undertakes Capital Beltway High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Study. It was later renamed Capital Beltway Corridor Transportation Study, reflecting view that mass transit alternatives were needed to address Beltway congestion.

2001—Then-Gov. Parris Glendening endorses “Inner Purple Line,” a light-rail system from Bethesda to New Carrollton that is estimated to cost $1.2 billion. It puts him at odds with then-Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan, who favors a $4-billion, heavy-rail “Outer Purple Line” outside the Beltway from North Bethesda through Grosvenor, Wheaton and White  Oak. Photo of Glendening in 2001 via Action Committee for Transit.

2002—Name “Purple Line” is formally adopted in Capital Beltway/Purple Line Study conducted by State Highway Administration and Maryland Transit Administration. Study identifies “Inner Purple Line” between Bethesda and New Carrollton as priority transit corridor, while ruling out use of heavy-rail and monorail technologies due to cost and impact.

2007—“Purple Line” name is officially restored after administration of Gov. Robert Ehrlich had sought to dub the route as “Bi-County Transitway,” reflecting Ehrlich’s interest in exploring use of bus rapid transit alternatives.

August 2009—A year after release of draft environmental impact statement that assesses a half-dozen light-rail and bus rapid transit options, Gov. Martin O’Malley comes out in favor of Purple Line “medium investment light-rail alternative” at projected cost of $1.52 billion. Photo of O'Malley in 2009 via Nancy Floreen.

May 2013—Shortly after Maryland General Assembly approves gasoline tax increase yielding additional $4.4 billion over six-year period, O’Malley releases list of projects to be funded by the increase—including Purple Line.

August 2013—Appearing in Bethesda, O’Malley says he wants public-private partnership—so-called P3—to build and operate Purple Line. He also announces $400 million state commitment for construction on top of previous $280 million for design work and property acquisition.

September 2013—Final environmental study is released, predicting the line will attract more than 74,000 riders daily by 2040.

The proposed route and station stops of the Purple Line. Credit: Maryland Transit Administration (click to expand)

March 2014—Federal Transit Administration includes Purple Line as one of seven “new start” projects nationwide, including $100 million in federal government’s 2015 fiscal year budget as down payment on what Maryland hopes will be $900 million in federal aid.

August 2014 – Two Chevy Chase residents in partnership with advocacy group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail file a federal lawsuit alleging the Purple Line would do environmental harm and possibly risk the habitat of an endangered amphipod.

November 2014 – Republican Larry Hogan upsets pro-Purple Line Democrat Anthony Brown in the gubernatorial election. While on the campaign trail Hogan repeatedly said the project’s cost is too expensive. Gov. Larry Hogan celebrates his Republican primary win with his wife Yumi. Credit: Hogan campaign

November 2014 – The Federal Transit Administration rates the project medium-high as part of its New Starts program and estimates the total cost at $2.45 billion and about $55 million per year to operate.

December 2014 – Gov.-elect Larry Hogan delays a decision to choose one of four private companies’ bids to build the Purple Line.

January 2015 – Gov. Larry Hogan announces he’ll take time to review the Purple Line before making a decision on whether to move forward with project, alter it in some way or kill it.

June 2015 - Gov. Larry Hogan says the Purple Line will move forward, but the state will invest less money than previously proposed.

A major portion of this timeline first appeared in the "All Aboard" article about the Purple Line in Bethesda Magazine's November-December 2014 issue. Updates to that original version have been done by Andrew Metcalf

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