On November 22 the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail fundraiser and learning session packed the house with over 80 enthusiastic supporters. Participants learned about Purple Line impacts and the status of the citizens’ lawsuit, and made donations in support. Many who could not attend sent their encouragement and contributions. Participants came from multiple communities along the Line, including the Town of Chevy Chase, Bethesda, East Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, the greater BCC community, and Washington, DC.

Several experts presented their analyses:

Cost:  The net benefit and public value of the Line is zero, and World Bank cost-benefit analysis would not have considered it acceptable, noted Frank Lysy, a PhD economist who has reviewed many similar large projects for the World Bank group. Much better transit service could be provided at the same or lower cost with different transit modes, while preserving the environment.  

Local economic impacts:  “Most of our elected officials don’t know how the Purple Line will be funded, and some don’t want to know,” said Jean Cavanaugh, of Silver Spring, who has been trying to find out how Maryland taxpayers will finance the project. After Governor Hogan reduced the State’s upfront contribution, for example, MTA raised its estimate for yearly debt service from $50 million to $60 million, over at least 30 years.  

Noise: State measurement of noise, averaged over time, hides its full impact, explained Don MacGlashan, an engineer who has done extensive sound analysis for the US Army, Navy, Air Force and other government agencies and for citizen groups. The Environmental Impact Statement also failed to consider noise impacts on pedestrians and bikers using the Trail or nearby sidewalks.  

Stormwater runoff:  Deborah Ingram, a co-investigator of the Friends of the report on stormwater runoff and water pollution from the Purple Line, explained how excess runoff created by the project has not been adequately addressed.  The State acknowledges runoff will flow into neighboring residences, schoolyards, culverts and streams, but offers no comprehensive remedies.  The impacts would reverse County efforts to comply with the Clean Water Act. The Purple Line could also disturb over 200 sites of hazardous materials (including some with PCBs).

Lawsuit status: The suit is trying to force the Federal Transit Administration and the State of Maryland to provide an honest assessment of the impact of the Purple Line and of alternatives, including detailed and enforceable mitigation plans.  The first brief is due to Federal Circuit Court January 15, with a ruling expected later in the spring.  As an audience member pointed out, the very fact that the defendant agencies have not moved to dismiss the suit shows that the lawsuit is a strong one.  Details on the suit are available at   http://savethetrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Fact-sheet-about-citizen-lawsuit-Nov-2015.pdf.

Delegate Al Carr:   Maryland State Delegate Al Carr (D-District 18, Montgomery County) attended the meeting. He encouraged citizens to continue to ask hard questions of the Maryland Transit Authority and State and local politicians.  Al Carr serves on the MD House of Delegates Transportation and Environment Committee.

Following the presentations, attendees participated in a broad-ranging give and take, sharing ideas on new approaches and how to continue to spread the word, hold similar events in their communities, and pitch in as volunteers.  Total cash and pledge donations for the evening were over $23,000.

Thanks again to all the citizens, across several communities, who are helping make this campaign a success!