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Rice says debt, school capacity problems and Purple Line influencing County CIP

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GAITHERSBURG – County residents say they are concerned about capital budget projects, such as the aging Poolesville High School never being refreshed and the security of temporary classrooms near elementary schools.

On Monday, County Council Education Committee chairperson Craig Rice (District 2) told residents that the Purple Line – the light-rail service to connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties—as well as the Council’s new spending affordability guidelines and County debt are chipping away at the money County will permit to be spent on school building costs and capital projects for schools in the FY 2019-2024 Capital Improvements Plan.

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Chevy Chase Council denies $50k grant to fund anti-Purple Line lawsuit

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Chevy Chase Town logoCHEVY CHASE — The Town of Chevy Chase Council voted 4-1 to deny a grant proposal from The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT) and two Chevy Chase residents to help fund their legal effort to thwart further construction of the Purple Line.

The FCCT, John Fitzgerald, and Christine Real de Azua requested that the town to donate $50,000 to help defray growing legal costs from their ongoing federal lawsuits to try to stop the light-rail project, according to a proposal sent to the council last month.

“The entire town will benefit from a lawsuit that can get the truth out there,” said Jim Roy, Vice President of the FCCT.  “We have tried other measures like letters, but nothing has been as successful as the lawsuit.”

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County Council tackles Purple Line issues

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Montgomery Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) said the hardest part of building the Purple Line is yet to come.

“The hardest part is now before us,” Berliner said. “And it will be more important than ever that we have open communication with respect to this project.”

The Montgomery County Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee met with state transit officials Sept. 28 to discuss the expected disruption and impact from the construction of the Purple Line, a 16- mile light-rail train that will connect Bethesda to the New Carrollton Metro Station. The committee meeting served as an opportunity for state transit officials to answer questions the community has on the Purple Line construction.

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Chevy Chase Council caught in the middle

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Tension was noticeably thick as over a dozen residents of the Town of Chevy Chase spoke to the Town Council about their displeasure with the tactics and trustworthiness of Purple Line Transit Partners during a meeting at the Jane E. Lawton Community Center last Monday night.

“I would like the Council to formally put on record a request to fire the Purple Line Transit Partners, the private contractor behind the ridiculously short notice people had that the trail was going to be closed four to five years” said Deborah Vollmer during the public comments portion of the agenda. “They are thuggish; they’re incompetent.  And the way they have entered into this project we can only ask what more outrages are we going to face? What more corners are they going to cut?”

On Aug. 29, the Maryland Transit Administration announced on its Purple Line website that it would close the approximately 3.5-mile trail to begin construction on the rail system. The light-rail line will travel between Silver Spring and Bethesda on the trail right-of-way.

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Breaking Ground!

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After delays local leaders celebrate Purple Line construction

JGS 9049Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao at the Purple Line groundbreaking. PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTH  HYATTSVILLE – After 30 years of planning, workers finally broke ground on the Purple Line, the soon-to-be light rail line that will connect Metro stops in Montgomery County to Prince George’s County.

After the ceremony, workers began construction on the 16.2-mile $2 billion light rail line that will connect Bethesda Metro to New Carrolton Metro Station with 21 stops including at Silver Spring, Takoma/Langley Park and College Park.

Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-4), Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker were on hand for the signing and groundbreaking ceremony for the Purple Line.

Chao lauded the project saying the Purple Line is one of the largest public-private projects in the country. In April 2016, Hogan signed the $5.6 billion P3 contract to begin the long process of building the new rail system.

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Purple Line to receive $900 million in funds

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purpleline1 327x250According to Shareese Churchill, a spokesperson for Governor Larry Hogan, the light rail Purple Line project connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties may receive a $900 million federal funding agreement.

“The Hogan administration fully expects the Purple Line Full Funding Grant Agreement to be signed in the very near future,” said Churchill.

Churchill said the agreement frees up $325 million in federal funds already appropriated for the project. The agreement will total $900 million over the life of agreement.

"The Purple Line project will harness the power of the federal, state, county and private sector partners to get a major infrastructure project under construction and create jobs,” Maryland communications director Doug Mayer said. “It’s a major win for the state and local communities."

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Purple Line clears legal step

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A week after a panel of federal judges granted a stay, giving the paused Purple Line project new life, the County Council gave the go-ahead to the state transit administration to start work on the project.

On July 24, the Council approved a franchise agreement to allow the Maryland Transit Administration to build, operate and maintain the Purple Line in County owned right-of-ways. The unanimous agreement by the Council clears a legal step by giving the MTA the franchise agreement and authority to start working on the project on County-owned land.

The County will not charge the MTA for the new 70-year franchise agreement, citing “public benefits” for the project. Most of the County-owned land that the franchise agreement covers is in the Georgetown Branch area, a strip of land between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

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Purple Line is now back on track

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Federal judges granted a stay on lower court’s ruling on the Purple Line, clearing the way for the light rail project to move forward.

On Wednesday a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the stay of District of Columbia District Court judge Richard Leon.

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State transportation secretary suspends part of Purple Line contract

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The Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary said he wants to put the brakes on spending for multiple parts of the light-rail Purple Line contract on May 31, according to a news release.

Secretary Pete Rahn had said he would alter the project, a public-private partnership, if District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard Leon failed to make a final decision on a lawsuit by June 1.

Leon made a final ruling, but then State Attorney General Brian Frosh appealed it. Rahn said Wednesday he wanted to be cautious about how the state and how Purple Line Transit Partners spent money for delays in the project, given the uncertainty of when the U.S. Court of Appeals would process Frosh’s appeal.

“With a legal path forward, MDOT’s and the Purple Line’s situation has changed from the unknown circumstances of just two weeks ago,” said Rahn. “With an unknown timeline for an appeal and dwindling available cash to carry the federal reimbursable costs being expended by MDOT; and to protect the taxpayers of Maryland, I am ordering that action be taken immediately.”

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