Elrich Asks State to Single Track Purple Line, Some on Council are Opposed

As the state moves closer to selecting a contractor for the Purple Line, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has suggested reducing the project in order to save money due to the financial hit the county has taken during the pandemic.

Elrich has asked the Maryland Department of Transportation to consider single tracking the Purple Line inside the Bethesda station so the county will be able to rebuild its connection with the Capital Crescent Trail.

Elrich also recommended the the council defer some of the project’s work at the trail from the tunnel beneath Elm Street and Wisconsin Avenue by at least two years. It is currently scheduled to begin during FY 2025, but Elrich would like it moved back to at least FY 2027, according to a report at the council’s Transportation and Environment Committee.

Councilmembers Andrew Friedson and Hans Riemer are strongly opposed to Elrich’s suggestion. In committee meeting reports, Friedson wrote that the tunnel work is “a long time council commitment.” The $55 million trail project “would provide for a conflict-free crossing of Wisconsin Avenue for the thousands of bikers and hikers using the trail daily when the rest of the trail reopens.”

Single tracking would create delays for commuters as the train as one train waits at the tunnel for a train proceeding in the opposite direction to pass.

In his blog, Riemer said the delay would reduce ridership, which would make the Purple Line less financially feasible. He called the Purple Line “an economic development engine for Montgomery County,” adding he has been advocating for its inception for 15 years.

When completed, the Purple Line would connect the downtown areas of Silver Spring and Bethesda to the campus of the University of Maryland.

Meanwhile, the state is moving ahead with the project. Purple Line Transit Partners announced this week that it short-listed three companies to design-build the Purple Line. The are Halmar International; Maryland Transit Solutions, which consists of Dragados USA and OHL USA; and Tudor-Perin/Lunda.

Later this month, Purple Line Transit Partners will issue a request for proposals. In June, it will select a contractor.

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