Two Montgomery County Council members in districts where the Purple Line is slated to go would like the county executive to formalize a collection of community groups into an official county work group to provide input on the project’s implementation.
Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda and Councilwoman Cherri Branson (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring sent a letter asking County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to turn the Coalition of Purple Line Neigbhorhoods, an informal group of civic and homeowners association along the Purple Line’s route, into a formal task force that would work with county and state agencies to address issues such as noise, tree preservation, safety and the aesthetics of the project.
President Barack Obama recently included $100 million in his proposed budget for the long-awaited 16-mile light-rail project that would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, a key step forward in the project that will include a mix of state and federal money.
Branson said Monday that in meeting with community members she’s sensed worries that residents’ concerns won’t be heard. The best way to resolve that is to have a formal process for concerns to be aired, she said.
Alan Bowser, president of Park Hills Civic Association in Silver Spring, said he appreciates the interest of both councilmembers and hopes the letter reinforces the consistent support members of the community have been getting from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and Leggett.
“We hope that their interest will be reinforced by the state delegations,” said Bowser adding that residents want the best possible light-rail system, but want to have a transparent dialogue between community representatives, Maryland Transit Administration officials and contractors.
Until final drawings and plans for the project are released, people will be naturally apprehensive about how change will affect them, Branson said.
The letter asks Leggett to make the Coalition of Purple Line Neighborhoods an executive-appointed task force that would work with the Maryland Transit Administration and county’s Department of Transportation as the project moves forward.
It also asks him to chair a meeting of the new task force with the two councilmembers, the state senators from districts 18 and 20 and representatives from the agencies handling the project to address community concerns.
Mary Anne Hoffman works with the coalition on behalf of the Town of Chevy Chase, one of 15 communities that are part of the coalition. She said the communities have been talking to the Maryland Transit Administration about mitigation for more than four years, and now they want solid commitments from the state on measures like noise walls and safe pedestrian crossings to lessen the negative impact of running a rail line through town.
“If the Purple Line is built, we all want it to be successful,” Hoffman said, but success doesn’t just mean operating efficiently and having good ridership numbers and a healthy bottom line.
“Success should also mean that the Purple Line is a good neighbor, because it cares about its impact on the communities,” she said.
In Chevy Chase, Hoffman said, people want to see a grade-separated crossing near Lynn Drive where some students cross the route on their way to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.
“We hope to be part of the design and construction process going forward,” she said.
Staff writers Aline Barros and Elizabeth Waibel contributed to this report.