The Purple Line is a $2.2 billion light rail project that will cross 16 miles to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton, passing through many communities along the way. Take a virtual morning ride on the transit line from Bethesda to Takoma Park to see the project’s impact on Montgomery County.
Bethesda Station, 9 a.m.
The Purple Line station will be at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street, just outside the Regal Bethesda movie theater. Stairs or a high-speed elevator will lead to the platform. The drop is too steep to allow for escalators.
Trains will run every six minutes during peak hours, and 10 to 12 minutes during off-peak hours.
As the above-ground train travels west toward Silver Spring, riders will be able to watch cyclists and runners on the adjacent 16-foot-wide Georgetown Branch Trail extension of the Capital Crescent Trail, separated from the rails by a fence.
Formerly a freight rail line run by CSX, the line was purchased by Montgomery County in 1988 and preserved as a hiker-biker trail until it could be converted for future rail use.
Passing through the East Bethesda neighborhood, the mature trees that once shaded the trail will be gone, taken down for the light rail. Riders will be able to see directly into the backyards of houses on Kentbury Drive, homes of residents who have fought this project for years, and whose houses will be visible above the 4-foot sound wall.
Connecticut Avenue Station, 9:03 a.m.
As the train continues east, it will pass through Columbia Country Club and will cross Connecticut Avenue on a bridge, coming to stop at a new station where the Chevy Chase Lakes project is slated to be built.
Lyttonsville Station, 9:05 a.m.
The train will make its way into Lyttonsville, a tight-knit, historically African-American community. Lyttonsville is home to an industrial district, the Forest Glen Annex and the National Park Seminary, which has been rooted in the community for more than 100 years as both a finishing school for girls and a rehabilitation facility for soldiers returning from World War II.
Five generations of Charlotte Coffield’s family have lived in Lyttonsville. While the community was concerned about the project at first, the Purple Line team was given a tour of the community and agreed to relocate the maintenance yard, which saved some businesses. Though she may not ride the Purple Line, Coffield said she sees the value of the project for future generations.
Resident Roger Paden thinks this project could make Lyttonsville a recreation destination because of the stop’s close proximity to the neighborhood community center, Rosemary Hills Park and Rock Creek Park.
Woodside/16th Street Station, 9:07 a.m.
Pulling into the station, there will be no sign of the Spring Center shopping mall and the many small businesses it currently houses.
Shops and restaurants will have been forced to relocate and some will have been eligible for up to $60,000 for relocation expenses.
But that’s not enough, say the shop owners who are there now. Some are first-generation Americans and say they don’t know whom to contact to voice their opposition to the project.
Silver Spring Transit Center Station, 9:09 a.m.
By 9:09 a.m., the train will travel over the Metro’s Red Line where it crosses over Colesville Road. It will head directly into the heart of Silver Spring’s Central Business District at the Silver Spring Transit Center, on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Colesville Road. Once it’s open, the transit hub will bring together buses, taxis, the MARC train, Metro’s Red Line and the Purple Line light rail.
As the train continues toward its next destination, it will travel through what was once 1110 Georgia Ave., a commercial office building on the corner of Bonifant Street that houses more than a dozen businesses, including tattoo parlors, bookstores and restaurants.
The building will be acquired to ensure that the train will make it to grade level on Bonifant Street, which is home to more than 20 small businesses. Shop owners soon will see their two-lane road with 30 metered parking spaces transform to a one-way street with only 12 metered spaces for patrons and two lanes of light rail barreling by.
Silver Spring Library Station, 9:12 a.m.
Within three minutes of the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest stops on the line, the train will pull up to the new Silver Spring Library, which is expected to be open by November 2014.
During the next four minutes, the train will travel through the peaceful, shaded neighborhood of the Three-Civics Working Group for Residential Wayne Avenue Purple Line Design.
The collaboration formed in April and comprises the Seven Oaks Evanswood, East Silver Spring and Park Hill civic associations. The group met collectively with Purple Line officials July 25 to discuss only a handful of their concerns, including the location of a traction power substation — a large box placed every mile along the path that keeps the train moving — which is planned to be anchored in the front yard at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Greenbrier Drive.
Dale Drive Station, 9:16 a.m.
Riders then will pass by where the Dale Drive Station is planned. Residents and Purple Line officials still are debating the need for the station, which will be placed in the middle of a single-family home neighborhood in close proximity to Sligo Creek Elementary School and the Silver Spring International Middle School.
While most residents accept the inevitability of the Purple Line, some still question the need for this stop along the route. This stretch of the line is the only one in Montgomery County where cars will share lanes with the light rail.
Resident Chris Richardson said he worries whether Purple Line planners can mitigate the concerns of the neighborhood, such as the noise of squealing wheels and the placement of the traction power substations.
He also fears the Purple Line will lead to zoning changes that will compromise the character of the neighborhood.
Manchester Place Station, 9:20 a.m.
After the train leaves the Manchester Place Station, it will take one of its few trips underground for the 100 block of Plymouth Street, a quiet, dead-end road that is lined with brick apartment buildings and single-family homes.
Bart Hall, who has lived on the street for 20 years, said he has no problem with the light rail, as long as it doesn’t change the character of his quiet neighborhood. He doesn’t want the street to turn into the station’s de facto parking lot.
Long Branch Station, 9:22 a.m.
Just two minutes later, the train will pull into the Long Branch Station, which is bordered by small businesses.
Carlos Perozo, owner of tax preparation business ZP Tax since 2007 and a Silver Spring resident since 2002, sees the station as “progress.” His office will be about a mile and a half from the station and he believes that in conjunction with the Long Branch Sector Plan, the Purple Line could help in the revitalization of the multicultural community.
Piney Branch Road Station, 9:26 a.m.
After the train leaves the Piney Branch Road Station, it will pass Flower Avenue and the front of the historic Flower Theatre. The theater’s facade, including 40 feet into the building, was designated a historic site by the Montgomery County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee on July 29.
The County Council will vote on the site’s historic preservation in the fall, according to Melissa Williams, a senior planner at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
This is not good enough for Takoma Park and Silver Spring residents such as Melinda Ulloa and Dan Reed, who are working with the Flower Theatre Project to save the theater and turn it into a community or arts space.
John Marcolin, an urban designer for the Montgomery County Planning Department, said the theater will not be torn down for light rail construction. The proposed station will be on nearby Arliss Street, but the Flower Theatre will not be affected, Marcolin said.
Ulloa said she is also worried about her neighbors in nearby apartment buildings. Light-rail construction will take down current retail and apartment buildings on Piney Branch, Flower Avenue and Arliss Street. Residents such as Marilyn Piety worry what traffic pattern changes in the neighborhood for the Purple Line could mean for their main drag of Flower Avenue.
The rail car will turn onto Md. 193 and pass the New Hampshire Estates, a 4.9-acre park with sports fields and a playground. The park will lose 10 to 15 spaces in a small lot for the rail line construction, said Chuck Kines, the park and trail planner for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. But Kines said the park will be more walkable after the light rail is built.
Takoma/Langley Transit Center station, 9:28 a.m.
Nearing the Takoma/Langley Transit Center Station at 9:28 a.m., riders will pass several apartment buildings on University Boulevard with window seats to the Purple Line. Renters once had affordable housing, but access to major transit is bumping up rental rates, pushing many out.
Rents are rising in apartments such as Bedford Station Apartments at 1400 University Blvd. East, and Victoria Station Apartments at 8107 14th Ave., both in Hyattsville. Many tenants are being pushed out, said Zorayda Moreira-Smith, the manager for housing and community development at Casa of Maryland, an organization that helps low-income Hispanics in the community gain access to resources.
As the train pulls into the station, riders will see the back of the Expo Emart in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads shopping center. A portion of the Expo Emart parking lot will be lost for light rail construction, but Susanne DeLyon, the president of Expo Emart, is not upset by this. She said customers will be able to get to the market from farther distances now that they have access to the Purple Line, opening a new customer base for her store.
Many businesses along University Boulevard are looking forward to construction, said Melanie Isis, the executive director of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority, which represents business and property owners in the area. The authority sees the Purple Line as positive investment in local infrastructure.
Source: Display Boards at MTA’s Purple Line Spring Open House 2013.