Silver Spring residents got a preview Tuesday of a future Purple Line light rail station, and were skeptical about what they saw.
The Lyttonsville station stop of the rail line, which will link Bethesda and New Carrollton with connections to Metro, MARC and Amtrak trains, is one of two confirmed stations with a maintenance shop and holding tracks. Operating 24 hours daily, the shop and tracks will house about half of the 55 Purple Line’s fleet while routine and non-routine maintenance and repairs are performed.
The 20-stop Purple Line, a project of the Maryland Transit Administration, is intended to ease east-west traffic congestion in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which both support the project. Over the objections of those supporting bus rapid transit and other options, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in 2009 approved the alignment of the light rail that will also serve downtown Silver Spring, Takoma/Langley and the University of Maryland, College Park.
Construction is projected to start in 2014 with a price tag of $1.9 billion, and the line is expected to begin service in 2020. The MTA projects that 20,000 vehicles will be taken off roads every day as drivers ditch the wheel for the Purple Line, and that there will be 60,000 riders daily.
Project manager Mike Madden offered a few caveats at Tuesday’s neighborhood work group meeting in the Lyttonsville neighborhood north of East West Highway. He said that commercial development that has not been approved, such as proposed work in the Chevy Chase Lake area, has not been factored into effects on traffic.
Madden also said the Federal Transit Administration needs to sign off on the project and how it would be funded. The federal administration is expected to officially decide on the project’s merits and how to fund it in 2013.
“We cannot guarantee that the project will have the funds and the approval to build it,” he said.
Among the roughly 25 residents at the meeting, the operations of the maintenance yard and its location attracted particular concern. The fenced-off yard will have 200 workers in three shifts, drawing concerns from people at the meeting about noise and associated traffic.
In a previous design, the maintenance shop and tracks were located on the opposite side of Brookville Road of several apartment buildings and single family homes.
As part of the project, the Capital Crescent Trail will also be rebuilt, at a projected cost of $60 million that is not part of the total $1.9 billion projected cost for the Purple Line.
Officials explained that they flipped the tracks and shop to provide better access to the 200-foot-long station, which will have no parking spaces for Purple Line users.
“We do want people to walk and bike to these stations,” Madden said.
But some in the audience indicated that the design change had a greater impact on the Lyttonsville and Rosemary Hills neighborhoods than the previous design because of the maintenance operation’s proximity to residences.
“It’s a totally new proposal which flip-flops all over the community,” said Rosemary Hills resident Joel Teitelbaum.
Chevy Chase residents close to the Purple Line had similar complaints in 2010, when they argued with the MTA over the location of the trail.
In early project planning roughly a decade ago, officials planned to put the trail on the south of the light rail, where residents said it would be an appropriate buffer between houses and the transit line. But the transit administration decided in 2007 to move the train to the north of the light rail further from residences.
Teitelbaum said he hopes O’Malley or the federal government vetoes the Lyttonsville design changes.