WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Laurel set to become the new Bethesda; Ike Leggett seeks business opportunities in the Promised Land.
NEXT STOP, HARRY POTTER: A new Silver Spring Library could straddle the Purple Line, says MTA officials at a focus group held last night at the current library. Check out coverage of an earlier Purple Line focus group in Bethesda at Maryland Politics Watch.
Skeptical residents filled the basement of the Silver Spring Library last night to attend a focus group for the proposed Purple Line held by the Maryland Transportation Authority, which unveiled new routes in Downtown for the controversial transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.
"I want to hear somebody who's in favor of it tell me why they think it should be built," says Pershing Drive resident Vicki Warren, who lives a block away from the proposed Wayne Avenue alignment.
For nearly two hours, project coordinator Mike Madden, consultant Harriet Levine and lead engineer Joe Romanowski listened to concerns about traffic, property impacts and the cost-effectiveness ratings that will determine if the project receives Federal funding in 2009. The MTA representatives also presented the three remaining route options through Downtown Silver Spring - at-grade on Wayne Avenue or Bonifant Street and a tunnel beneath Silver Spring Avenue.
so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .
Purple Line project coordinator Mike Madden discusses route options through Downtown Silver Spring.
While MTA officials denied their preference for a single alignment, discussion focused on the Bonifant Street option, which would take two lanes for transit and only allow one-way traffic on Bonifant between Ramsey Avenue and Fenton Street. A stop would be located at a new Silver Spring Library at Bonifant and Fenton, which would straddle the transitway as it swung north to Wayne Avenue.
Several alignments originally under consideration - including one along Sligo Avenue that JUTP toured last summer - were dropped earlier this year.
Jane, who asked that her last name not be given, may have a tunnel under her Grove Street home if the Silver Spring Avenue alignment is chosen. "I'd rather not have it in our neighborhood," she says, "but I don't want to be a NIMBY, so I'd like it to be in a deep tunnel."
"I'm for the Purple Line," adds Jane, a member of the East Silver Spring Civic Association. "I just don't want it to destroy property and businesses."
Many residents questioned if the Purple Line would reduce traffic Downtown, even laughing when MTA officials quoted studies that said most intersections in the business district would fail by 2030. "You've got problems discouraging people from coming to our new downtown," laments one resident. "I don't feel you can afford to remove lanes on Wayne [Avenue] without damaging traffic movements throughout the downtown."
While congestion would not necessarily improve, the Purple Line would prevent it from deteriorating further, responds Madden. "We're not out in the boonies here. We're in an urban area. Traffic is going to get worse," he states.
Despite the continuing opposition of the Town of Chevy Chase and other communities to the project, residents across the study area are warming up to the Purple Line. "I think there's a fair amount of skepticism," says Mike Madden. "We're also seeing a number of the public who are saying 'this is not a bad idea'."
Without quality examples of light rail in the region, residents have a hard time grasping what the Purple Line will feel like. "The average person has really not seen a good light rail line" like those in Portland, Oregon or Salt Lake City, says Harry Sanders of Action Committee for Transit, an advocacy group for transit in Montgomery County. "I think that does hurt."
As a result, public education remains a high priority for the State, explaining the need for focus groups and other meetings. "There's . . . some misunderstanding about how the project would fit in with the community," adds Madden.