The Sierra Club this morning named the Purple Line as one of the 25 best transportation projects in the country, which local transportation activists are using to promote the unfunded project.

In its report of “50 Best and Worst Transportation Projects in the United States,” the influential environmental group identified the Purple Line as one of 25 projects that would reduce oil consumption, increase safety, improve public health and save money for taxpayers and commuters.

The proposed east-west 16-mile light rail that would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton via Silver Spring and College Park is projected to cost $1.9 billion. The system is expected to carry 68,000 passengers per day.

With the state’s transportation fund dwindling, county officials have openly doubted whether the project will ever happen.

That’s part of the mission behind tomorrow’s state transportation summit in Annapolis, organized in part by County Councilmembers George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac). Berliner last month said he hopes to examine a number of options – including a long-debated state gas tax – with officials from across the state.

This morning, Ethan Goffman of the Montgomery County chapter of the Sierra Club presented Purple Line Now President Ralph Bennett with a copy of the report at what supporters hope is the future Bethesda Purple Line station.

“Transportation infrastructure we build today will be with us for decades,” Bennett said in a prepared release. “The Purple Line is exactly the kind of infrastructure we need as part of a 21st-century transportation system that increases our choices.”

“Climate change is with us, it will get worse, and transit is the best antidote,” Goffman said. “If we’re serious about fighting climate change, we must build the Purple Line soon.”

“This project will help make getting to work, school, shopping and recreation without a car easier, make walking and biking in our city  safer, and increase access to transit,” said Tina Slater, president of the Action Committee for Transit.  “We should heavily invest our transportation dollars in this kind of forward-looking project.”

Flickr photo by thisisbossi; photo via Action Committee for Transit