- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

An unlikely coalition of business groups, environmentalists and community groups plans to lobby Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to back a new Metrorail line for Montgomery County inside the Capital Beltway.
The Coalition to Build the Inner Purple Line plans to announce today that it has hired a lobbyist, former state Transportation Secretary David L. Winstead, to convince Mr. Ehrlich to seek federal money for the project.
A new Purple Metro line has long been proposed for Montgomery County, but public officials and local activists are split on where it should be built.
The inner route would be an east-west trolley line linking the job centers of Silver Spring and Bethesda. The areas are just a few miles apart by road, but Metro riders are forced to travel in and out of the District to make the trip.
The inner line would cost an estimated $400 million, and run along a hiker-biker trail and bisect Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan proposes a version that while linking Bethesda and Silver Spring also would run underground outside the Beltway. Mr. Duncan estimates that section would cost $600 million.
Both the inner- and outer-line proposals would keep the path from Silver Spring into Prince George's County, eventually connecting with the New Carrollton Metro station.
Mr. Ehrlich must decide by March 1 which project, if any, the state would choose to seek funding from the federal transportation reauthorization bill. Mr. Ehrlich has said that he favors an outer line.
But the coalition, which includes the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Hispanic group Casa of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, hopes that showing a united front of diverse interests can sway the governor to pick the inner-line proposal.
"In order for any hope of getting this kind of funding, it's going to take a broad coalition," said Theresa Pierno, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "This is about as broad as you can get."
The route proposed by the coalition is the same backed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening in 2001. Hispanic groups say it would offer much-needed transportation for workers living in the Silver Spring area. Environmentalists hope it will encourage drivers to use mass transit. Business leaders say the line would spur job growth.
Duncan spokesman David Weaver said the county executive's proposal would take more cars off choked roads compared with the inner-route plan. Mr. Ehrlich also has made his preference known in meetings with Mr. Duncan.
"The governor could not have been more clear that he's not going to fund the inner line," Mr. Weaver said.


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