By CHRISTOPHER CAREY
LANGLEY PARK (Oct. 24, 2008)—State legislators from Montgomery and Prince George's counties announced the formation of the Purple Line Legislative Caucus Thursday in order to make a stronger case for federal funding of the proposed light rail or bus line.
"This is a real milestone," said Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari. "We will be in a very strong position to compete for federal funding."
The announcement was held at the Langley-Hampshire Shopping Center, directly across the street from the proposed future site of a Purple Line station.
"We, as two delegations uniting as one, are forming this new legislative caucus so that we can continue to make this a major priority," said Delegate William Bronrott, D-Montgomery.
Each speaker stressed the urgency of building the Purple Line to help combat the transportation challenges that both counties face.
"The Purple Line is probably the most important transit initiative since the Metro," said Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, who stressed the importance of alleviating traffic congestion in the area.
The proposed 16-mile transit line would connect Metro stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton.
The project hit some bumps during the planning stage, as residents of the affected communities and the University of Maryland questioned portions of the proposed route. The Maryland Transit Administration responded by drawing up several alternative routes, as well as offering a choice between light rail and bus rapid transit.
Although Thursday's gathering was mostly focused on the message of unity, the opposition to the Purple Line did not go unaddressed.
"[Opponents of the Purple Line] seem to be in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George's. "I have yet to hear any logical argument why we shouldn't have mass transit."
Many of the legislators in attendance agreed that the Purple Line was long overdue.
"We need people to spend less time on the roads and more time with their family," said Delegate Justin Ross, D-Prince George's.
A decision regarding whether the Purple Line will be light rail or bus rapid transit has yet to be reached, though some already know what they would like to see.
Bronrott said that when he closes his eyes and thinks toward the future, he sees the Purple Line as a light rail.
"I believe once we get there, people will view [light rail cars] as great amenities for their neighborhood," Bronrott said.
Public hearings for the Purple Line will begin in November, which will allow citizens of local communities to comment on the plans and voice any opinions.
"This is one of the single most important projects in the state," said Porcari. "Together, we will get it done."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.