UPDATED: Purple Line Crashes into Trump Budget
The Purple Line, the 16-mile Bethesda-to-New Carrollton light rail connection, has fended off community opposition and small shrimp-like creatures. Now it has to fend off a new president’s budget plan.
President Donald Trump’s budget has a provision saying the federal government would not pay for any projects unless a full funding agreement was in hand.
On Aug. 3, a judge ruled the Purple Line’s ridership needed to be recalculated, just days before state and U.S. officials were to sign off on $900 million in federal funding.
“This is the first word, not the last word,” Council President Roger Berliner said Thursday. He tweeted out the news of the provision in Trump’s budget Thursday morning.
There are so many aspects of Trump’s budget that — IF approved — would be devastating. Just learned Purple Line is on chopping block too.
— Roger Berliner (@RogerBerliner) March 16, 2017
Erin Henson, the director of public affairs for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said in an email: “We won’t know if there is an impact to the Purple Line until a final budget is passed by Congress and the appropriations process is complete.”
Said Berliner: “There are many projects throughout the country that would find themselves in similar situation, so there could be bipartisan pushback.”
The president’s budget says it “limits funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only. Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
Berliner said he had been in contact with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Kensington Democrat who serves on the Senate Budget Committee and the Housing, Transportation and Community Development subcommittee.
“We could not be better poised to fight this kind of fight given the caliber of the people represent us,” Berliner said.
In a statement, Van Hollen said the budget betrays Trump’s campaign commitment to invest in infrastructure.
“I strongly oppose this cut to public transit, and I’m deeply concerned about its impact on the Purple Line,” the statement read. “Without the federal government’s support, current and future transit projects would have a much harder time getting off the ground — and the impacts would be felt by families across the country. As a member of both the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees, I will fight to protect funding the New Starts Program and a Purple Line protects the hiker-biker trail and all of the communities along the route.”
Although the Purple Line is broadly supported by elected leaders, some neighborhoods have fought the route. At one point, Purple Line opponents filed suit in an effort to protect amphipods, tiny freshwater invertebrates that bear a passing resemblance to shrimp. The suit claimed the amphipods were endangered. Research showed the suit had the wrong species.