Seeing green, red in the Purple Line

January 31, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Lawmakers from the Washington suburbs, cheered by Gov. Martin O'Malley's promise to boost mass transit funding, rallied yesterday to support a new light rail line in the region. But opponents are warning that the plan would do little to relieve traffic congestion or protect the environment.

Many Democrats from the region, who worry that more roads will only contribute to pollution and sprawl, pushed yesterday for the administration to fast-track the proposed Purple Line linking Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

"During the last four years, money has unfortunately been sucked away from the Purple Line," Sen. James C. Rosapepe, a College Park Democrat, said at an Annapolis rally yesterday. "Now with Gov. O'Malley, I think there's a need to expand our commitment to it."

Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt, a Prince George's Democrat, said the project is especially important to minorities and low-income families who often need to commute from one suburb to another, a pattern not well-served by the Metro system.

"In my district, there are families and hard-working individuals who must take 2 1/2 hours on the bus, on several buses, getting to work," Britt said.

But Sen. Richard K. Madaleno, another Montgomery County Democrat, said the light rail plan is a mistake. "You want to expand transit in places where you take people out of cars and put them on rail," Madaleno said. "This takes people out of buses and puts them on rail."

The Purple Line has also generated opposition from users of the Capital Crescent Trail, a recreational amenity adjacent to part of the proposed light rail route. They petitioned to move the tracks or build the line underground as part of the Metro.

Doing so will "increase ridership, expand Metro's ability to run alternate routes in emergencies and protect the trail," Del. Jane E. Lawton, a Montgomery Democrat said in a news release.

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