For Prince George’s County, the Purple Line light rail system is more than just another transportation option; it could be the catalyst needed to revitalize communities and attract more businesses, economic officials said.
“I think it is well recognized that mass transit hubs bring a huge economic boost to the regions they’re located in,” said David Iannucci, economic policy adviser to County Executive Rushern Baker III (D).
The proposed $2.2 billion light rail system will stretch 16 miles, beginning in Bethesda and ending at the New Carrollton Metro Station, which has struggled to attract businesses.
Iannucci said the New Carrollton terminus already hosts a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority station, Amtrak service, interstate bus service and a MARC station. Iannucci said the New Carrollton stop will be one of few in the region to offer such a wide range of transit options.
“It will be one of the most comprehensive mass transit hubs in the state,” he said.
Iannucci said the county acknowledged that more work needs to be done to spur development around public transit stations, but said that work will be easier with the development of the Purple Line increasing transit options.
Purple Line spokeswoman Teri Moss said an estimate of the Purple Line’s economic impact is due to be released this fall.
“In general, long-term effects on business conditions resulting from the Purple Line are anticipated to be positive,” Moss said. “Prince George’s County has potential for positive economic impacts due to the opportunities for transit-oriented development.”
The Purple Line also holds great promise for revitalizing the Riverdale Shopping Center, Iannucci said, where the Purple Line’s Riverdale aerial station will be located near the intersection of East-West Highway and Kenilworth Avenue.
Purple Line critics have cited concerns that the rail system would encourage more Prince George’s residents to shop and seek employment outside the county, spurring businesses to choose Montgomery County over Prince George’s.
Iannucci said more than 60 percent of employed Prince George’s County residents commute outside the county for work.
However, officials said the Purple Line is more likely to benefit Prince George’s.
Iannucci said that with Prince George’s lower housing prices, people who work in Montgomery County may look at Prince George’s as a more viable place to live, knowing they can commute by train instead of battling Beltway traffic.
In 2012, in Prince George’s County, the average selling price for a home was $190,274. In Montgomery County, the average price was $465,597, according to RealEstate Business Intelligence, a real estate advisory firm.
David Harrington, president and chief executive officer of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce, said he also does not fear a loss of revenue should Prince George’s residents choose to spend time in Montgomery.
“I always like to say, ‘A rising tide raises all ships,’” Harrington said. “Certainly, there is some possibility for loss of business to Montgomery County, but one of the things I think Prince George’s County is positioned so well for is development because we have the largest land base in the state and we have ample room for development.”
Olga Rodriguez, manager of an All-State Insurance office along the Purple Line’s proposed route on University Boulevard East, said she is looking forward to the light rail.
“I think it’s going to be a great benefit for a lot of my customers and a lot of people I see outside my office waiting for the bus,” Rodriguez said.