Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn held a brief ceremony Thursday to officially showcase construction of the Purple Line light-rail project.
So far, about 700 feet of tracks are installed for the 16-mile east-west trek for future commuters between the New Carrollton Metro station in Prince George’s County and the Bethesda station in Montgomery County.
“It’s really exciting,” said Hogan, who received the first tracks at the intersection of Ellin Road and Hanson Oaks Drive in Lanham. “Obviously, this has been a long time coming and been talked about for decades. We got the construction started two years ago. Just to see that track going around the corner there. There’s still a long way to go, but shows some real progress.”
The intersection will be part of a two-mile stretch to test rail cars in 2021. Rahn said the goal would be to operate the light rail in 2022.
The project was delayed when Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail of Bethesda filed a lawsuit in 2016 that criticized projection figures and requested state officials to redo an environmental impact study.
However, a federal appeals court disagreed in December 2017 and allowed construction to continue.
“We had a year from the record of decision pulled from us [and] we’re doing everything to make that up,” Rahn said. “We understand this is important to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties [and] deliver this as quickly as we can.”
The governor said the project will decrease traffic with 17,000 fewer vehicles on the roads, produce 6,300 jobs and bring $2 billion in office, residential and commercial projects launched or planned around the Purple Line corridor.
The state’s Department of Transportation will manage the Purple Line with 21 stations to connect with stations on Metrorail’s Red, Green and Orange lines.
Hogan touted the $5.6 billion public-private partnership deal as the largest transit project in North America and would allow Maryland to “serve as a model” for other states.
“This transformative Purple Line project is just one more way we are changing Maryland for the better,” he said.