COLLEGE PARK – When officials and business people around the state gathered Feb. 4 to discuss how to gain state and governor approval for the Purple Line, they all agreed on one thing—the state must go forward with the project.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said the region and state will not be able to grow without additional resources. The Purple Line, he said, would help bring that growth – ultimately creating more jobs, opportunities and economic prosperity.
“Our mission is that we need this. It’s not up for debate,” said Baker, one of the panelists at a summit held at the University of Maryland campus in College Park. “We put too much resources in now, we need to have the Purple Line finished, and we need the governor and the state to be on board with that.”
Elected officials from Prince George’s and Montgomery County collaborated at the business summit to rally support for the Purple Line project, a proposed $2.4 billion, 16-mile light rail between Bethesda and New Carrollton that will include 21 stations.
Jim Dinegar, the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, led the summit. He outlined the stops and the places the line will run through, such as Walter Reed, the National Institute of Health and the University of Maryland, and touched upon the line’s objectives if it moves forward as planned.
“It opens up opportunity,” Dinegar said. “It gets people to and from work. This is an economic engine.”
Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget includes $312.8 million to fund the project, which is still pending review. U.S. President Barack Obama also included $900 million in the federal Transit Administration’s budget for the project.
Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal said the council is in full support of the Purple Line and believes it will be transformative for the region.
The panel of leaders in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties said the line will connect employment centers and bring people, money and jobs to the region. The project is slated to help create more than 27,000 permanent jobs after completion.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett emphasized the business community’s role in convincing the state a project like this is necessary.
“We need you to convey this simple, straightforward message: the Purple Line is gold to the state of Maryland,” Leggett said. “The Purple Line will enhance your ability to achieve the job growth that is necessary for the state in general.”
Keith Haller, president of Potomac Incorporated and the Purple Rail Alliance, said he hoped for this kind of summit to bring business leaders together to figure out where the project stands and what else needs to happen to set it in stone. For successful federal approval, Haller said, effective arguments need to be solidified and supporters need to grasp legislators’ attention.
Haller said this project should be the top priority – people should start writing letters, creating advertisements and holding private meetings with the governor’s office.
“There was some really powerful information, and compelling information,” Haller said. “Now we just have to make sure the force of all these business communities and all the sectors is directed in a very effective way with the governor’s people.”
At the summit’s conclusion, Dinegar opened the floor for the attendees to offer comments, recommendations or key points that could be brought to the governor’s attention in support of the project.
Prince George’s District 3 County Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros spoke about the need to invest in the light rail – which has nine stops in areas she represents in the county – and the importance it holds for economic development potential.
“After the discussion for the last 10 years, 12 years … we are ready to go on this project,” Glaros said. “There is no reason to delay it. We have the private investment, we have the federal dollars there, we just need the commitment to break the ground and move forward.”