In what appears to be a dance of musical chairs combined with drama, comedy, ballroom dancing and wheelchairs, the Town of Chevy Chase sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan opposing the estimated $2.45 billion Purple Line. The letter, signed by Mayor Kathy Strom, asks the governor to “closely examine this project and its many flaws.”
“From the true cost of building and maintaining the line, to the number of projected riders and the real economic impacts on communities served by the line, concrete, fact-based numbers are difficult to find,” Strom wrote.
The letter is the latest in a flurry of correspondence directed at the governor regarding the light rail line. Previous letters from Montgomery County business leaders, regional planning board presidents and the Maryland Congressional delegation urged the governor to move forward with the project.
In her letter, Strom said the town has had difficulty deciphering the ridership, financial and economic data about the Purple Line using the software provided to it by former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration and urged Hogan to take a second look at the data.
“We would ask that your staff examine the material, decode it and objectively review the real financial, economic and environmental impacts not only on the citizens of the Town of Chevy Chase, but on all citizens of Maryland,” Strom wrote.
The town previously received ridership estimates from the state in July and some software, but not the third-party software, called Cube, that would be required to replicate the ridership models used by the state. In September, town officials stated it would be too expensive to obtain the third-party software and to hire an outside firm with expertise using the software to re-evaluate the ridership estimates.
The Maryland Transit Administration estimates there will be about 74,000 daily Purple Line riders by 2040.
Last year, the town spent $350,000 to fund a group of lobbying firms to work against the light-rail project that would extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. This year, it approved $20,000 to search for DNA evidence that an endangered amphipod species may exist in the proposed path of the Purple Line.
The endangered amphipods are the centerpiece of a federal lawsuit filed by opponents of the project who allege building the light-rail line may harm the shrimp-like creatures’ habitats.
On Friday, The Maryland Gazzette reported that a last-ditch meeting to convince Gov. Larry Hogan of the need to keep the Purple Line on track went well, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said.
“I don’t say that lightly,” he said.
Leggett (D) met behind closed doors Thursday with Hogan (R) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to talk about the Purple Line, specifically the economic reasons for building it.
Hogan was expected to make a decision on the Purple Line this month, but Leggett said he left the meeting Thursday with the impression that Hogan would not decide until after a scheduled trip to Asia, likely in early June.