Noise concerns, realignment request among Purple Line comments
Deadline to comment on environmental impact study was Monday

By Agnes Blum Staff Writer

Read more stories about the Purple Line and view an interactive map.

The deadline to comment on the Purple Line’s environmental impact study was Monday, and opponents of the $2.2 billion light-rail project have come out swinging.

The Town of Chevy Chase has called for not just a new environmental impact study, but a completely new design. The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail submitted a 23-page document detailing the flaws of the study and also proposing alternative routes. It also amassed more than 5,500 signatures on a petition to save the Georgetown Branch section of the trail.

And in Silver Spring, residents of Park Hills and Seven Oaks Evanswood filed a joint response, detailing concerns about noise, the impact of run-off on Sligo Creek, pedestrian and traffic safety and the loss of trees. They asked the Maryland Transit Administration to “do more to significantly reduce impacts on residents.”

The Maryland Transit Administration and the Federal Transit Administration have not yet counted up the number of comments they have received, said Paul Shepard, spokesman for the Purple Line.

The study, conducted by the Maryland Transit Administration, is available online at http://www.purplelinemd.com/en/studies-reports/feis-document and goes into great detail about the effects of construction of the $2.2 billion light-rail line. The train will travel 16.2 miles east-west across Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and construction is slated to begin in 2015.

One of the issues the Chevy Chase report raised was the cost of the project, described as “skyrocketing.” In 2007, MTA estimated cost of the project would cost $1 billion. Today, the price tag is $2.2 billion, and according to the Chevy Chase report, that means that an alternative route might be financially feasible.

Ajay Bhatt also wants the state to look into an alternative route. The president of the nonprofit Friends of Capital Crescent Trail emphasized that his group is not opposed to the Purple Line in general, and certainly not to mass transit. The group is opposed to the destruction and clear-cutting of about 20 acres of what is essentially parkland, the Capital Crescent Trail, to accommodate such a project.

“It’s about the trees,” said Bhatt, who lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and 4-month-old son. “If you don’t have these trees it’s not a park anymore—no shade, no birds, no hawks, owls or blue jays.”

His group imagines the trail as a “world-class linear park, stretching from Georgetown through Bethesda into downtown Silver Spring, preserving and enhancing green space when it is in critically short supply.”

By his estimate, the section of the trail that is in danger of being lost is home to about 200 specimen trees such as oaks, maples, tulip poplars, that provide shade in the summer and a patchwork of gold and red in the fall.

Finding a way to preserve this green oasis should not be too difficult, Bhatt said, since only a small portion — three miles — of the 16-mile light-rail route is on the trail.

“We strongly urge the MTA and FTA to reconsider the Purple Line in its current form,” he wrote in the comments that were submitted. The full response is available on the group’s wesbite: www.savethetrail.org.

Both the Chevy Chase report and the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail comments challenge the state’s analysis on noise and vibrations, saying the numbers are inaccurate.

Other county residents sent in individual comments to the environmental study. Tom Armstrong, a Silver Spring resident who has been following the Purple Line project for several years, stated in his comments that Wayne Avenue is the most affected part of the Purple Line, and it would “become significantly wider.” He also said the additional width “comes at the expense of trees and green lawns.”

Residents from Sligo-Branview Community Association suggested changes regarding rerouting or reducing bus routes from Wayne to Flower avenues to accommodate the Purple Line, and adding traffic calming measures such as “right-turn only” signs or speed bumps to moderate speeds on main roads.

There are no upcoming meetings or public hearings about the Purple Line, Shepard said, but the MTA plans to review the comments once they have all been collected.

ablum@gazette.net

Aline Barros contributed to this report.

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