Estimated costs for building the Purple Line are going up, in part because the projected costs for rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail are on the rise, reported Katherine Shaver of The Washington Post on Thursday, Oct. 27.
In particular, rebuilding the trail (which follows the path of an old railroad bed on which the Purple Line is planned to be built) through a tunnel in downtown Bethesda could take up almost half of the cost of building the Purple Line, if trail and light rail are to pass through the tunnel together, The Post reported.
And, Montgomery County is responsible for paying for any construction or re-building of the Capital Crescent Trail—which is estimated to cost over $103 million, The Post reported. (The estimated cost was formerly half that. Construction costs for the Purple Line are estimated at $1.93 billion.)
“State transit planners have said for years that squeezing two train tracks, passenger platforms and a 12-foot-wide trail through the tunnel would be difficult in such a tight space," The Post reported.
Current plans call for the trail to run above the tracks through the tunnel, which runs under the Apex office building on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue and under the Air Rights Center’s office building on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue (right near the Bethesda Metrorail staiton).
But, to do that, the tunnel will need to be excavated to give it more height, and at least 35 columns supporting the Apex building will need to be strengthened, The Post reported.
Keeping the light rail in the tunnel will mean a direct connection from the Purple Line to Metrorail’s Red Line, Purple Line planners say.
And, keeping the trail in the tunnel is necessary to keep the trail safe, Capital Crescent Trail advocates say. Re-routing the trail to cross Wisconsin Avenue at street level could be cheaper, but it could be unsafe, especially with students using the tunnel to get to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School near the eastern end of the tunnel.
Some say that the Purple Line should not be built at all, and that a bus rapid transit system be constructed instead.
The “practical train-on-wheels approach,” with high-speed bus lanes and buses that resemble tram cars, is cheaper and more flexible than a light rail system, according to an editorial run by The Washington Examiner on Oct. 31.
County Executive Ike Leggett admitted recently that Montgomery County cannot afford the Purple Line in its current configuration, and that private funds will be necessary to complete the Purple Line in the next 10 years, Ben Giles reported for The Examiner on Oct. 18.
In Prince George’s County, Purple Line funds are tight, too.
"In this economy, we have to be creative. Yes we're going to pressure the federal government [for funds], but it may not be there," Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker said on WTOP, The Examiner reported.