Adam Pagnucco of Maryland Politics watch has matched up the Maryland Transit Administration's arguments against single-tracking on a Washington area transit project against its decision to go with a single-track solution for the Cooks Lane tunnel on the Red Line and has come up with interesting results.
It turns out the MTA vehemently rejected single-tracking when pressed to use it on a portion of the Purple Line to reduce the number of trees it would have to cut down. Here's the agency's language:
In sum, introducing a single-track segment between Bethesda and Connecticut Avenue would significantly compromise travel time savings, service frequency, passenger carrying capacity, and the maintenance and operating reliability of the Purple Line, thereby reducing the effectiveness, efficiency, and the return on a $1.3 billion investment. The reduction in the amount of tree clearance hoped for from building a trail and single-track segment would not likely be achieved. For the many reasons stated above the MTA strongly recommends against single-tracking any portion of the Purple Line.
While Red Line foes will certainly find that language useful, there's a big difference between single-tracking to save a few trees and single-tracking to make a project economically viable. With the Red Line, the choice came down to single track or nothing at all because the double-tracked tunnel it wanted pushed the cost beyond federal funding guidelines. But MTA officials are going to have to get used to explaining its decision to single-track the Red Line through that mile-long tunnel.
You heard it here first: if the Red Line is built as the Governor is now recommending, MTA will soon return with a multi-hundred-million dollar request to widen the Cooks Lane tunnel. The feds will never pay for it. That means the rest of the state will be on the hook.
Pagnucco is likely at least partly correct here. The MTA is likely to eventually seek to add a second bore -- and is fact leaving room at its portals to accommodate a wider tunnel. But Pagnucco's statement that "the feds will never pay for it" assumes the current transit formulas remain in effect in the new transportation reauthorization bill. Maybe they will, maybe they won't.
Even if that eventual project must be built with state funds, it will have to compete with the other priorities around the state at that time. Chances are, Montgomery County will have an item equally expensive on its wish list in the 2020s. There would be a trade-off.
To some extent, Pagnucco seems to be trying to gin up a little conflict here pitting the Red Line against the Purple Line. I don't think he'll get very far with the Montgomery County legislative delegation, except for a few lonely Purple Line foes who would be happy to see both projects go down. It's well understood that the two projects balance out neatly in political terms. The hallowed Annapolis principle of "you kill my dog, I'll kill your cat" will deter proponents of both projects from going after the other.