Statement by Ajay Bhatt, President, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT) on the new $1.925 billion price tag for the Purple Line:

Today’s action by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board to increase the cost estimate for the Purple line to $1.925 billion is another nail in the coffin for this environmentally and financially ill-conceived and expensive project. It’s well past time for Governor O’Malley and other Purple Line advocates to concede the obvious: the Purple Line as currently planned would carry too few riders at too great a cost to Maryland taxpayers and our environment.

The interest of the FCCT is to save the Capital Crescent Trail from the destruction which will occur if the Purple Line is constructed and operated over the Capital Crescent right-of-way between Bethesda and Silver Spring. The current plan for the Purple Line would clear-cut the bucolic 20-acre tree-canopied nature trail, currently enjoyed by thousands of citizens all year long, and replace it with a shade-less ribbon of asphalt next to the new rail lines. It is clear that the environmental costs and financial costs are well beyond our means and our needs.

Already, Governor O’Malley and Purple Line advocates have proposed increasing the state gas tax by $800 million annually to cover the state’s share of the project’s construction costs and other new transportation spending. Now, according to newly released information, the state will also raid MARC funding by $135 million for the Purple Line. On top of this, the governor wants a $1 billion subsidy from the federal government to complete the Purple Line. This, of course, does not include untold millions of dollars in state operating subsidies that will be necessary for the Purple Line.

The Purple Line is estimated to carry a mere 60,000 riders a year, 80% of whom are already riding on transit buses. We hope that Governor O’Malley and others wake up to the fact that it makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to shift a tiny fraction of transit riders from buses to light rail. There are alternatives to the current Purple Line plan; there are no alternatives if the Capital Crescent Trail is destroyed.