A light at the end of the tunnel?

With the recent federal government approval of the Purple Line Maryland residents wonder what the next step will be for the development of this regions first light rail system. The approval also gives many people mixed feeling on whether they like or dislike the coming change to their Washington D.C. suburban community.

One of the major communities that will be strongly affected by this commuter development is Silver Spring. Having numerous stops on this rail line, some community members are optimistic that the increased transportation will help complement the $400 million in renovations and construction that has been invested in the area.

“This will definitely help in continuing to revitalize the Silver Spring area,” said Kevin Bradley, a local resident. “This also helps make it easy for people to get here through some of the congestion, and a greener alternative at that.”

These were some of the major reasons that helped the Federal Transit Administration approve the project. The approval for the light rail system is a necessary step for the state to continue to allow officials to fine-tune project estimates, construction schedules and environmental studies.

The purple line was first proposed under Governor Ehrlich’s administration in 2003, and was meant to be a public transportation connection between Bethesda and New Carrollton running through Montgomery and Prince Georges’ Counties. The planned rail line is meant to connect the existing Metro, Marc Commuter Rail and Amtrak stations. The 16.3 mile commuter route will have 21 stops, which includes seven in Silver Spring and two in Takoma Park. Mostly run on the surface with one short aerial and tunnel section and several underpasses and overpasses roadways, this line is expected to have a daily ridership of 60,000. Officials estimate that 30 percent of the Metrorail users will use this line as part of their trip.

“Governor O’Malley and I have made public transportation one of our top priorities because we understand that Maryland cannot continue to move forward if we are buried in gridlock,” said Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The Purple Line project will help us address many of the difficult challenges we face today and in the future.”

One of the benefits that both the federal and state government sees from the development and formation of this project is the job creation. Transportation experts estimate that 35,000 jobs are created every billion dollars invested in transit. With the inter-city connector looking to cost about 1.93 billion officials believe that this will be a serious help to the state.

“In order to create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments. The Federal Transit Administration’s approval today will help us continue to create jobs and expand rapid and reliable transportation in the Washington suburban region,” said Governor O’Malley at a press conference after the news on the federal approval of the purple line.

While many in the community do see the benefit in job creation, some are fearful of the displacement this railway might cause in areas like Langley Park.

“I know that this system seems like a good idea on the surface, but with the increased traffic in the area I wonder how long the affordable housing and local businesses will stay or be affected heavily,” said Eric Ruiz, a former economist and local resident.

The Federal government is expected to cover half of the construction cost with $962 million, but with the recent transportation budget cuts in the state, residents in Silver Spring are skeptical that the State will be able to finance and complete the project by its expected service date, 2020.

“A lot of Silver Spring’s residents and business owners are excited about the new line, especially because of the amount of business it can bring in the area. I just doubt with all of the cutting back and deferring of transportation projects in Maryland that the project will be completed on time,” said Aaron Jenkins, a local businessman.