County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office says Leggett (D) is committed to the Bethesda Metro South Entrance project despite a proposed funding delay and recent assertions that he is trying to defund the project to instead fund new roads.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield responded directly to a column that appeared Tuesday on Greater Greater Washington that accused the executive of trying to derail the project and questioned why the county would not build it regardless of if the Bethesda Purple Line light rail station is ever built.
Leggett said his recommended six-month funding delay in the FY 2014 Capital Budget wouldn’t actually delay the project as it is tied into building the Purple Line station. The estimated $80 million entrance would connect the Metro platform 120 feet underground with high speed elevators to the Purple Line station at Elm Street west of Wisconsin Avenue.
The Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line is unfunded. From Lacefield, who said building the entrance independent of the Purple Line or MTA would add about $25 million to the cost:
County Executive Ike Leggett is committed to expanding transit and committed to the Purple Line project. That’s why it was so surprising to read the Greater Greater Washington post implying otherwise. Montgomery County has authorized the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to proceed with the design of the new entrance to the Bethesda Metro station. Both design and construction of the elevators will be paid 100 percent by Montgomery County. The bottom line is that it makes the most sense to keep the new entrance on the same schedule as the unfunded Purple Line. MTA has told the County it is fine with this approach.
Is it possible to build the entrance elevators independently of the Purple Line design? Yes — but only at significantly increased cost and greater risk. It is estimated the additional cost to the County could be $25 million. And, the County would have to absorb all possible risks associated with the structural integrity, possible temporary relocation of offices and potential damages to the Apex Building located above. This makes no sense.
The County has a finite amount of money to devote to capital projects. Setting aside money in the capital budget before it is needed only bumps other projects, such as transit or school construction, that may be ready to go.
Mr. Leggett’s commitment to the Purple Line and a new entrance to the Bethesda Metro is clear. Let’s just do it in a way that is most cost effective.
Patrick Lacefield, Director
Montgomery County Office of Public Information
Cavan Wilk, author of the post for Greater Greater Washington, wrote the recommended delay “continues the pattern with this administration of trying to defund smart growth-oriented projects while proposing lavish spending on sprawl-oriented road projects.”
He also said the South Entrance should be built regardless of what happens with the Purple Line:
The county has always planned to finance this new entrance on its own, because it will benefit Red Line riders on the day it opens, Purple Line or no.
In addition to offering an alternative when the existing escalators are out of service, it will bring the station up to modern safety standards by providing a second entrance for emergency personnel and a second evacuation route in the event of an emergency.
The County Council will have final say on Leggett’s recommended delay. Last year, he battled with the Council on funding for the station. The Council chose to put $80 million toward the project.