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The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail line that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County. It will provide a direct connection to the Metrorail Red, Green and Orange Lines; at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton. The Purple Line will also connect to MARC, Amtrak, and local bus services.

The Purple Line will be powered by overhead wires known as a catenary system. As a transit system separate from Metro, it will operate mainly in dedicated or exclusive lanes, allowing for fast, reliable transit operations. Most of the alignment will be at the road way level, though short segments will be elevated or underground.

The Purple Line is owned by the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA). In spring of 2016, MDOT MTA selected a private-sector partner, Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) to design, build, operate, and maintain the light rail system for 35 years.

MDOT MTA is the project lead, with the support and close coordination of a team that includes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA), and local municipalities in the project area.

Project Milestones. 2002-2008 MDOT MTA Studies a range of alignments and transit modes; 2008 Draft Environmental Impact Study; 2009 Light Rail selected as the mode of transit; alignment identified; 2009-2014 Conceptual and Preliminary Engineering Phase; 2013 MDOT MTA decides to use P3 to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Purple Line; 2013 FTA Accepts the Final Environmental Impact Statement; 2014 FTA Issues the Record of Decision; 2014 MDOT MTA Issues Request for Proposals for Purple Line P3; 2016 PLTP selected to complete design, build, operate and maintain the Purple Line; 2016-2026 Design and Construction; 2026 Purple Line Service Begins.

The Purple Line construction schedule is currently under review.


  • Reliable and rapid east-west travel
  • Connects to Metrorail Green and Orange lines and both branches of the Red Line
  • Supports community revitalization and transit-oriented development
  • Provides an environmentally friendly transportation option to help reduce auto-dependent travel
  • Connects people to jobs
  • Improves connectivity to the regional Metrorail system
  • Connects to commuter rails MARC, Amtrak, Metro and local and regional bus routes
  • Completes the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, the Green Trail along Wayne Avenue to Sligo Creek trail, and a bike path through the University of Maryland Campus


  • 16.2 miles
  • 1 short tunnel (Wayne Avenue to Long Branch)
  • 21 stations
  • 5 modular light rail vehicles spanning 140 feet per train
  • Comfortable, well-lit interiors
  • Quiet operations
  • Low floor for easy boarding
  • No fare gates at stations for faster access
  • On-board storage for bicycles
  • ADA compliant

Environmental Benefits

  • The Purple Line is estimated to take 17,000 cars off of the road daily, saving 1 million gallons of gas within 20 years.
  • Electric power means no air emissions into the immediate environment
  • Purple Line’s use of existing roadways minimizes effects on land and water resources

Community-Friendly Light Rail Transit

Light rail vehicles are modern streetcars, powered by overhead electrical wires.
Features include:

  • Low floors to allow passengers to board without climbing steps
  • Quiet operations
  • Neighborhood stations convenient for pedestrians and bicyclists

Purple Line light rail vehicles have been designed with special wheel profiles, noise dampening wheel skirts, and other noise reducing measures to ensure the train will not exceed 75 decibels on straightaways and 78 decibels on sharp turns.

Light Rail Overview

Light RailMetro
Can operate easily along commuter streets and be crossed by pedestrians and automobiles Must operate in exclusive right-of-way separate from pedestrian and street traffic
Powered by overhead catenary system (OCS)  Powered by 3rd rail
 Modular train (all 1 piece) – 140 feet  Multiple car train (between 6 and 8 cars) – 75 feet per car

A traction power substation (TPSS) is an electrical substation that converts the electric power from the utility company (PEPCO) to the proper electrical voltage (1500 Volts DC) and frequency needed for the operation of the Purple Line trains.

The TPSS will be housed in a steel building similar in size to a car garage, 58 feet by 18 feet and will be fed by underground electrical feeds. It is similar in function to the transformer mounted on utility poles and supplies the power to the catenary wires of the light rail. There is a total of 10 TPSS along the Purple Line alignment; located approximately every two miles. The graphic below depicts a typical TPSS in comparison with the Purple Line light rail vehicle.