Montgomery County seeks alternative funding for Purple Line, Bus Rapid Transit

As a gas-tax proposal loses steam, Montgomery County officials are looking for new transportation financing.

Metro's Purple Line is delayed. The Bus Rapid Transit plan is in limbo. And officials say a lack of funds is to blame.

"We can't get the Purple Line on time, we can't get the Corridor Cities Transitway on time, if the state doesn't find a funding mechanism," says Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner.

But federal loans and state grants aren't guaranteed as governments everywhere tighten their budgets.

"No longer can projects just to go state governments and federal governments and say, 'we want a grant or even a loan,'" says Deborah Lipman of the Metropolitian Washington Airport Authority.

Now, Montgomery County is looking to Virginia and other regions for funding ideas.

In a hearing Thursday, experts offered up dozens of options, from road sponsorships to taxi surcharges to taxes on drinks.

"You might call them wild ideas and maybe some of them are, but the fact is none of them are wild in the sense that all of them are happening," says Art Guzzetti of the American Public Transportation Association.

Experts say the key to funding big, long-term projects is implementing many small funding plans. Tiny tax increases and public-private partnerships have worked elsewhere.

"You need lots of pieces, there is no one big piece to fund these projects," Berliner says.

But county officials say the biggest issue is getting voters on board with out-of-the-ordinary funding plans.