Purple Line — why this matters so much

Dear resident:

The recipe for our future success as a community is not only progressive policy making but also having a strong economic foundation that provides higher paying jobs for our residents and tax revenues to support public services.

As a region with many companies that are turning scientific breakthroughs into commerce, our County government should recognize that strength and do everything possible to build on it.

One key initiative that I have been focusing on a lot: better connecting our economy to UMD and College Park.

UMD is one of the largest higher ed computer science institutions in the US. Although it is in a neighboring County, it is still one of Montgomery County’s key power centers to generate economic progress.

To build on UMD’s potential, we need a high quality Purple Line. The Purple Line runs right through campus with multiple stops there and then continues to downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda while connecting to the Red Line Corridors.

Degrading the Purple Line — as the County Executive is now proposing to do by “single tracking” trains into Bethesda and foreclosing future improvements in the frequency of trains — will really limit our County’s economic potential.

Consider this exceptionally pertinent example.

The economic development world is buzzing about the potential for new companies and job growth in the rising technology sector of quantum computing.

Quantum computing is basically just a new computing technology that is massively more powerful than existing computing technology.

As quantum technology improves, the number of applications for that technology will grow and eventually a huge amount of data and other computing work will shift to quantum computing.

Companies that provide that service will grow — dramatically.

Why does this matter? Because it was partly invented in College Park and the Purple Line Corridor could become a hub for quantum computing. You may not have seen the news, but a local company, IonQ, a leader in the industry, has just gone public, creating waves in the industry.

In the world of quantum, this region is on the map, big time. We are poised to capture long term opportunities. As the Washington Business Journal reports,

“That growth is not only projected for the company itself, but also the surrounding area. With its roots entrenched in research done at the UMd., Chapman said he expects the ancillary innovation needed to capitalize on quantum technology, such as software applications, will draw more opportunity to College Park.

“I think obviously, with this announcement, it really makes College Park the epicenter for the quantum world,” he said.

UMd. President Darryll Pines agrees. He said the school is continuing its support of ongoing research and development into quantum information science, backed by both federal and state support.

How should Montgomery County respond to this opportunity? We should do everything possible to support local growth in quantum, leverage it, and build our technology economy. Our proximity to UMD is a geographic advantage for us that we need to capitalize on!

When I proposed that we strategically build a “Purple Line Innovation Corridor” in my 5 Point Plan it was with this kind of potential in mind.

Our economic development thinkers have run with that idea and some are even proposing that we brand a regional “Quantum Crescent” from NIST to the NSA, with the Purple Line as a key link.

The Purple Line is essential to the vision. We need the Purple Line corridor to offer not only beautiful neighborhoods but also densified urban areas that are walkable and bikable with appealing social and cultural features as well as a large supply of workforce and affordable housing — all built on reliable, high quality transit service. A place where workers and their companies will want to locate!

That is very much within our reach.

But a lot is riding on the success of the Purple Line itself, which will be the transit service that people could ride from labs and classes at UMD to labs and companies in Montgomery County — as well as to where they live and recreate.

I am glad to see that a great many state elected officials from Montgomery County — Senators and Delegates — have sent a letter to the Governor expressing their opposition to the County Executive’s unfortunate request. Councilmember Friedson and community groups, including Purple Line NOW, have also spoken out against this proposal.

The problem with single tracking, as I explained previously, is that it limits the future expansion of the Purple Line by preventing increases in the number and frequency of trains, and severely handicaps the Purple Line’s ability to function if something in the track needs repairing or upgrading – as we have seen so clearly with Metro.

That caps the potential of the entire corridor.

The good news is that the way forward is clear. The State needs to finish construction of the Purple Line, with a two track tunnel into downtown Bethesda, and the County must do its part by building the separate Capital Crescent Trail tunnel for pedestrians and bicyclists

Despite the County Executive’s recommendation to remove the pedestrian and bicycle tunnel from the budget, the Council can keep it on track in the final budget we pass this spring.

I am committed to doing that and I am hopeful my colleagues and I will find a way. As always, I welcome your feedback at Councilmember.Riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov and thank you.

Hans Riemer