By Lisa Rein and James Hohmann
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 9:51 AM
Gov. Martin O'Malley endorsed a light-rail line over bus rapid transit Tuesday by announcing that Maryland will pursue federal transit money to build a Purple Line linking Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
"What we're presenting today is rightfully called the locally preferred alternative," O'Malley said during a news conference at the New Carrollton Metro station, the proposed eastern terminus for the Purple Line.
He said his administration will apply for funding for the 16-mile line as well as a 14-mile Red Line through Baltimore, two long-awaited projects that have been in the planning stages for years.
O'Malley described the decision as "the product of a consensus through disagreement." He said the light-rail option will be sleeker, narrower and more "pleasing to the eye" than previous generations.
"This is not your grandfather's light rail," he said.
O'Malley scheduled a whistle-stop train tour befitting both announcements: After the 8:30 press conference at New Carrollton, he planned to board a Baltimore-bound MARC train and travel to the West Baltimore station. When that train arrives at 10:14 a.m., he'll make his Red Line announcement.
Political support for both projects is behind light rail, although they face local opposition because they would run along local streets and not underground. The Purple Line would run along a popular wooded trail and through the golf course of a country club in Chevy Chase.
O'Malley was joined at New Carrollton by Purple Line supporters and government officials, including Maryland Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) and Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
"I'm happy to put to bed the alignment questions," said Edwards, who wore a purple suit for the occasion.
Johnson said he plans to push for a bicycle trail along the Purple Line route.
Both lines are expected to get a boost from the No. 2 official at the U.S. Department of Transportation, John D. Porcari. who championed both when he was O'Malley's transportation secretary. But competition for federal money still will be tough.