Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Purple Line impacts vary with options - Gazette

State says transit project could include six stops in Silver Spring, tunnels and land acquisition

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

The Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line could include underground tunnels, a variety of stations and the acquisition or displacement of several properties, according to a Maryland Transit Authority study released Friday.

Six alternatives are being considered by the MTA for the Purple Line, a 16-mile, east-west transit line between Montgomery and Prince George's counties that would incorporate Metro and MARC lines.

Three of the proposed alternatives would use bus rapid transit (BRT) and three would use light-rail transit (LRT), which would have higher ridership and a better economic impact, according to the study. Each mode of transit has three different plans under consideration which vary in cost, travel time and integration with existing roadways.

The 251-page study described how each alternative would impact the community and provided estimated travel times, costs and ridership statistics. As many as six of the possible 20 stations along the Purple Line, which spans from Bethesda to New Carrollton, could be in the Silver Spring area between 16th Street and Georgia Avenue and Arliss Street and Piney Branch Road.

"We have more options in Silver Spring than most areas," said Michael Madden, a project manager for MTA, at a Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, where he presented the Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line.

All of the options have stops at 16th and Georgia, at the future Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center being constructed at Wayne Avenue and Colesville Road, at Dale Drive and Wayne, at Manchester Road and Wayne, and at Arliss and Piney Branch. Four alternatives will have a stop at Fenton Street and Wayne, which could incorporate the proposed Silver Spring Library project.

The study gave the Fenton and Wayne intersection poor grades when estimating the average delays of vehicles at intersections along the route. Most intersections along Wayne received no better than "C" grades.

"They think it's going to be the panacea to all traffic problems but it could cause some new ones," said Karen Roper, chairwoman of the East Silver Spring Citizens Association.

By 2030, the transit center stop is projected to have between 5,000 and 13,600 boardings per day depending on the alternative chosen, the highest averages of any stop along the line, according to the study. If the planning process goes smoothly and the expected funding of more than $1 billion is obtained, construction on the Purple Line could begin in 2012, Madden said.

"If we do not have new choices for public transportation, then 10 years or 15 years in the future, people will be sitting in cars as they do now," said Jonathan Elkind, a Seven Oaks resident and member of the pro-Purple Line group Silver Spring Advocates during a Tuesday phone interview. "… The Purple Line is about giving people a choice in transportation."

Between the 16th Street stop and the transit center, all alternatives would follow the CSX freight tracks between Spring Street and Fenwick Lane. The two lowest levels of BRT and LRT would share lanes with other traffic.

All LRT options and the highest BRT option would have a tunnel under the roadway along Wayne between Sligo Creek Parkway and Arliss Street. The highest level of LRT and BRT would also have a tunnel beginning at the transit center station, travelling under Georgia Avenue and emerging at Wayne and Cedar Street.

An option that would extend the tunnel under Georgia to a route along Thayer Avenue, with a station near Thayer and Nolte Avenue also being considered for the highest levels of each transit mode. That tunnel would emerge behind East Silver Spring Elementary School and would impact 1.65 acres of the school grounds, the report said.

Rob Rosenberg of the Silver Spring Thayer Opposed to Plan organization said that particular design would eliminate park land, put students at risk and put older homes around Thayer in jeopardy due to construction.

"We understand there are transit benefits for the county but we don't want it to destroy the communities it's supposed to benefit," Rosenberg said Monday.

Roper said with three routes and six alternatives affecting her neighborhood, the specific impacts of the Purple Line could go unnoticed given the scale of the project.

"That's 18 possibilities within a half-mile of our neighborhood," she said.

To accommodate the route, the acquisition of one residence and the displacement of two others along Leonard Drive would be needed. One building within the Barrington Apartments complex and two within the Falkland Apartments complex, both of which are near 16th Street, would be displaced as well.

Four of the alternatives would require land acquisition along Wayne Avenue to widen the roadways for new left-turn lanes. If the tunnel and station along Thayer Avenue is chosen, land acquisition of some properties along Thayer, Hartford Avenue and Dale Drive would be required. Construction on the grounds of Silver Spring International Middle School on Wayne could also be needed.

"People look at how it best serves Silver Spring and there are some tradeoffs," said Jon Lourie, chairman of the urban district committee.

The report, which is available at, will undergo a 90-day comment period. Four public hearings will be held in November, including 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Nov. 22 in Falcon Hall at Montgomery College's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus, 7600 Takoma Ave.

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