Montgomery County’s push for transportation investment paid a billion-dollar dividend Monday when the state committed money to eight county road, rail and bus priorities.
The lion’s share of funding, $680 million, will go to the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail line planned to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton. Other projects, such as the Corridor Cities Transitway, Ride On Bus system and road improvements, will see smaller funding commitments from the state.
County Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said the funding from the state helps signal that the Corridor Cities Transitway project is ready to move ahead, although there’s still a long way to go.
Making sure the state is a player along with the county can help provide leverage to attract private investment for the project, he said.
“It’s a very promising sign for us,” Rice said.
Areas such as Clarksburg and Germantown have seen both residential and commercial growth in recent years, he said.
Standing above the Bethesda Metro station on Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced the investments, saying they will bring needed jobs and traffic relief.
Led by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Montgomery pushed for an increase in the statewide gasoline tax in the 2013 legislative session raising $4.4 billion in new investment and 57,000 jobs in the next six years.
The county sought a cash commitment from the state to the $2.2 billion Purple Line, as well as the Corridors Cities Transitway — a 15-mile bus rapid transit line connecting Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro Station, estimated to cost $545 million.
Over the “last few decades,” Maryland stopped making necessary investments to build and maintain its transportation infrastructure, O’Malley (D) said Monday.
“The failure to act, the failure to make those better decisions, had a huge cost,” he said.
Time, jobs and the environment were sacrificed, he said.
Flanked by dozens of state lawmakers, local leaders and members of the building trade, O’Malley said Montgomery’s share of that money will include the following:
• $400 million for construction of the Purple Line, which comes on top of $280 million announced previously to buy land and finish the project’s design.
• $125 million to construct a new interchange along Interstate 270 at Watkins Mill Road.
• $100 million to buy land and design the Corridor Cities Transitway.
• $85 million for Montgomery’s Ride On Bus system.
• $25 million to build and relocate a section of Md. 97 (Georgia Avenue) to bypass the center of Brookeville.
• $7 million to build interchanges at U.S. 29 and Musgrove Road and at U.S. 29 and Fairland Road.
• $3 million to design the widening of Md. 124 (Woodfield Road) from Midcounty Highway to south of Airpark Road.
• $3 million for planning to evaluate possible improvements in the Md. 28/Md. 198 corridor between Md. 97 and Interstate 95.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) shepherded a bill through the General Assembly this year that became the state’s new public-private partnership law. He said the state will deliver the Purple Line as its first and largest transit partnership with private industry. The state will seek a private company to build and operate the line.
“It’s a project that is going to connect our communities and grow our economy,” said Brown, who is running for governor in 2014; O’Malley is term-limited. “With the additional $400 million the governor just announced, we are showing how serious we are to delivering the Purple Line now.”
Montgomery looks to add 100,000 jobs through its efforts in the Great Seneca Science Corridor, Shady Grove, White Flint and White Oak, Leggett said.
“However, all of that depends on improvement in our transportation infrastructure,” Leggett said. “Without that [investment], those jobs may come to a screeching halt.”
Montgomery leaders warned last December that without dedicated funding and clear state commitment to the project, the Purple Line, which is almost completely designed, would stall in its tracks.
“All of this is about better choices,” O’Malley said.
Not everyone gathered on the Metro plaza supported the projects, namely the Purple Line.
Shouting “Bury the rail, save the trail,” opponents of the Purple Line frequently voiced their position over those who spoke.
Deborah Vollmer of Chevy Chase said the rail line will lead to incalculable loss along the Georgetown Branch of the Capital Crescent Trail, a hiker-biker trail that, at points, parallels the Purple Line’s planned path. She said she is not opposed to mass transit, but the rail should be buried to avoid damaging the park-like atmosphere of the trail.
Staff Writers Sylvia Carignan and Ryan Marshall contributed to this story