Over the weekend, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley announced that the state was going to seek a private company to help build the Purple Line, a proposed light rail project running from Bethesda to New Carrollton. This is the first time Maryland has asked for private funding for public transit and it's also the most recent in a series of decisions that have made The Purple Line such a controversial project. Here are a few beefs that we've noticed just within the past few weeks and with construction not set to start until 2015, we're certain we'll be updating this list.
· A private firm financing public transit. Admittedly, $2.2 billion is a lot of money and Virginia has gone this route in the past with private companies fronting most of the payment for the toll lanes on I-495 (in exchange for a portion of the tolls, of course). This partnership could work out well by speeding up the construction process, but if it doesn't, the Purple Line could go the route of the beleaguered Silver Spring Transit Center where two parties are looking at each other to take responsibility for operation and repairs. It sounds an awful lot like what this following Washington Post commenter fears:
"We raised state taxes to pay for the line and then we're going to alow a private enterprise to profit from its operation? Oh, and the state will still subsidize the private enterprise until they've made their money back. Then, naturally, the owners of the private enterprise, all of whom have made millions, will stop investing in upkeep, allowing the system to fall into disrepair. Then the state will buy it back from them and be forced to spend billions to make it operational again."
· The hesitance to grow communities around transit stops. This looks like the battle of people who don't want to increase traffic in their neighborhoods vs. people who want to be able to live near a transit stop and not so much a problem that deals directly with the Purple Line so much as an argument that's arising as a result of it much like the traffic delays and detours that are going to pop up during the five years of construction.
· The displacement of several businesses and homes. That over 100 families and offices will have to move out of the way is perhaps the biggest point of contention of the entire project. Maryland Transit Authority has said that they've already started interviewing the people that live and work in those spaces and that they'll be assigned a relocation counselor but according to the Gazette, "if an agreement cannot be reached, the state has the authority under Maryland law to acquire the property through eminent domain proceedings." Ouch.
· Maryland to seek private firm for Purple Line project [WaPo]
· Montgomery nervous about density around Purple Line stops [GGW]
· Prince George's cities brace for Purple Line disruptions [Gazette]