January 15, 2009
Montgomery County Planning Board Recommends Light Rail for Purple Line
SILVER SPRING – After hours of testimony and consideration on the Purple Line, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted today for the public transportation project to take the form of light rail rather than bus rapid transit.
Proposed for years as a new east-west public transit route across Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, the 16-mile Purple Line is proposed to run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, and provide connections to Metro at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton, as well as connect with major bus routes, the MARC train and Amtrak.
The Board will send its input to the County Council, which will take up the transit project next week. The Council will then forward its recommendation on the Montgomery County section of the Purple Line to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), which is in charge of the project.
“Our existing and future density will support light rail,” said Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson, adding that light rail has greater capacity to move passengers than bus rapid transit. Hanson added that light rail will be better for air quality, especially as electricity generation gets cleaner, and that noise levels would be less, particularly important in urban areas.
The light rail decision, which trumped bus rapid transit in a 4-1 vote, (with Commissioner Amy Presley dissenting), was the biggest consideration of a host of recommendations, including station locations, tunnels versus street level, and the future of the popular Capital Crescent Trail that runs along the line’s proposed path. The Board agreed with staff recommendations to go with a surface route along Wayne Avenue in Silver Spring and eliminate a proposed station at Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive.
Board members agreed with staff that the Capital Crescent Trail recreational path can parallel a light rail track and share an existing tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue. Planners also recommended – and the Board endorsed – that the trail be rebuilt above the train through the tunnel. The Board also specified, following staff’s recommendation, that large trees be planted as a screen between the trail and the tracks along the route.
The Board received a near-record amount of public input on the project, with close to 50 speakers and some 950 pieces of correspondence.
State transportation officials estimate that up to 63,000 passengers will ride the Purple Line daily.
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