Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rethinking the Purple Line

Event on the Capital Crescent Trail

From Pat Burda, Chair of the Town of Chevy Chase's Long-Range Planning Committee

Recent press focus on the Columbia Country Club gives the mistaken impression that the Club is the major source of community opposition to placing the Purple Line on the Capital Crescent Trail. It’s not. The Greater Bethesda Chevy Chase Coalition has long fought to keep the Trail open in the form of a park. Save the Trail Petition has documented thousands of petitioners from the greater community who oppose putting transit on the Trail. Most recently, Rethinking the Purple Line was formed by the eighteen community organizations which support protecting the Trail.

These groups are trying to alert the public to the true impact the Purple Line will have on the Trail, including the destruction of 15 acres of mature trees which makes the Trail so wonderful. Even MTA has acknowledged that building the Purple Line would require destroying the trees and that there is no room to replace them. They have been less than forthcoming, however, about specific details for how the Trail will function in this extremely narrow right of way – how can it be safe and usable by bikers, families, joggers alike – and how much construction may need to occur outside the right of way to allow for the creation of the infrastructure needed to support the Line, including substantial retaining walls.

Furthermore, MTA’s plan for putting the trail in a narrow, short tunnel over the rail tracks as it goes under Wisconsin Avenue is technically difficult and expensive to build, potentially dangerous to use, and probably will never be built. The tailtrack for the Purple Line would be placed directly in the urban park the community worked so hard to obtain as part of the Woodmont East development. These are things the public needs to fully digest before they embrace any alignment of the Purple Line.

Other pro-transit options are available. The Town of Chevy Chase’s transportation consultants (fully paid for by the Town) feel that the Jones Bridge Road Bus Rapid Transit alternative by directly servicing BRAC at NNMC, the north Woodmont Area slated for substantial development, and downtown Bethesda is a very attractive alternative. Unfortunately, they have determined that the State’s assessment of the Purple Line options is biased and the numbers are stacked against a fair assessment of that alternative. The Town has urged MTA to reconsider their analysis of the JBR BRT alternative so the public can make a fair comparison. This transit option also costs one third the cost of the high LRT option. One wonders why groups like ACT and Purple Line Now! are working so hard to discredit the Town’s position when the JBR BRT alternative may be a real winner for meeting transit needs in the region and could actually be built.

To learn more on the Town’s position, I encourage readers to visit the website and click on the Purple Line tag line.