This is how new University of Maryland President Wallace Loh reports a piece of advice that he received from the federal Department of Transportation, when discussing the preferred alignment for the Purple Line. No pressure. The DOT only holds the keys to hundreds of millions of dollars in potential funding, without which the light rail project is unlikely to ever get off the ground.
Based on his remarks at a recent faculty forum, it appears that Loh is taking the Purple Line alignment very seriously. Although he has not yet recommended a specific alignment, his comments should be encouraging to many readers of this blog. According to Loh, “whether you choose Campus Drive or some other alignment is fundamentally a question of your vision for the next 50 years.” He regards the Purple Line as essential to the future of the university, the region, and the state. He expects that 20-30 years from now College Park will be a less suburban environment than it is now, fewer students will be driving cars, and fewer faculty and staff will want to drive cars, as the region becomes increasingly congested.
Interestingly, Loh reported that he compared notes with officials at Portland State University, which recently saw the opening of a TriMet MAX line that goes right to the center of its campus. It seems that the folks at PSU are quite proud of their new accessibility, and the train is so attractive to students that the university is updating its promotional materials to highlight the light rail. Loh recognizes that students increasingly want quick, sustainable access all over the region.
Loh also commented that the state’s case for federal funding for the Purple Line would be helped by a unified vision from the university and the surrounding community. Community support for the Campus Drive alignment is overwhelming. The protracted dispute between the local community and Loh’s predecessor C. Dan Mote over the choice of alignment probably would not meet the definition of “unified vision.” Loh’s official recommendation to the Chancellor and Governor is not due for a couple of months, but these signs are encouraging.
Loh offered other hints at his vision for the future of the city and the region. More details to come in a future post!