MARYLAND'S General Assembly has approved funding of $10·5m to start planning and environmental studies for the proposed 22·7 km orbital light rail line from New Carrollton to Silver Spring and Bethesda. It would link the outer ends of Washington Metro's Red, Green and Orange lines, providing suburb-to-suburb connections between communities inside the Capital Beltway. Between Bethesda and Silver Spring the line would use the right of way of the abandoned CSX Georgetown branch, currently a hiking/biking trail.
The state's six-year capital programme includes a total of $16·6m for the studies. In 2003, Maryland DoT plans to seek funding authorisation for the project in the federal government's planned six-year transport bill. DoT's timetable calls for completion of planning and the award of a federal grant in time to allow construction to start in 2008, with opening scheduled for 2012. Estimated construction cost is $1·2bn.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has also tentatively approved a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the 38·6 km link from West Falls Church metro station to the satellite city of Tysons Corner, Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County (RG 1.01 p29). Several rail and rapid bus options were studied, as well as a metro extension, but the WMATA board has deferred selection of its preferred mode and alignment until public hearings have been completed.