Monday, January 26, 2009

ervin asks MTA to study wayne avenue tunnel further

Councilmember Ervin (center) at a Purple Line Now! fundraiser in 2007.

When it comes to the Purple Line, Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) has been caught between the needs of her constituents and the needs of her neighbors in Park Hills, which sits along the Wayne Avenue route of the proposed transitway. At the MTA's Purple Line hearings in November, she said the issue has "literally divided" her community. In a letter to Maryland Secretary of Transportation John Porcari sent last week, Ervin asks the State to "conduct a detailed analysis" of a tunnel underneath Wayne, citing the potential impact of an at-grade Purple Line on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Dear Secretary Porcari:

After reviewing hundreds of resident's comments, the Maryland Transit Administration's Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the County Executive and Planning Board's recommendations, the Montgomery County Planning Board's Staff Report, and reviewing similar projects, it is my opinion that the Purple Line will provide Montgomery County with much needed long-term transportation infrastructure and environmental benefits. However, I want to ensure that the development and implementation of the Purple Line does not negatively impact District 5 residents who live along the alignment. For more than two years, I have been meeting with numerous residents in my own neighborhood who have raised several issues that need to be addressed by MTA staff as the project moves forward.

I would like to request that in addition to the at-grade option for Wayne Avenue, that the MTA conduct a detailed analysis of the community's request for a tunnel (from the Silver Spring Metro to Mansfield Road) as part of the locally preferred alternative and preliminary engineering process. Considering the scale and impact that this project will have on downtown Silver Spring and its surrounding communities, I believe that a detailed analysis of both options merits consideration. With either option, at-grade or tunnel, I concur with the recommendations made to date that a stop at Dale Drive is not currently justified.

All alignment options through Silver Spring must include a detailed plan to improve pedestrian safety and bicycle accessibility, account for future automobile growth, address access to existing and new residences, public facilities and private businesses, encourage long-term transit usage and ensure vibrant long-lasting communities.

I am a strong advocate for mass transit improvements and building the infrastructure that the County needs for its future, but this cannot be done in a manner that impacts residents' quality of life. Thank you in advance for considering this request and for working with my office on issues that my constituents have raised. I look forward to continuing to work with your staff as new issues and concerns arise throughout the design, planning and implementation of this important project.

Sincerely,
[signature]
Valerie Ervin - District 5

4 comments:

Robert said...

This is good news. An on-grade Purple Line through downtown Silver Spring would be slower for Purple Line riders, make a bad traffic situation even worse, and also be bad for people that live along Wayne or any other residential street used by the trains. We should build the Purple Line, but we should do it right and put it in a tunnel.

Thomas Hardman said...

Wow.

This is absolute idiocy.

She and anyone else demanding a tunnel need to look at what the Green Line and Yellow Line construction did to the neighborhood in the District under which those tunnels passed, for a decade.

Tomorrow, I'll dig up the references Jen Deseo deleted from the Silver Spring Penguin site.

For now, from http://www.earthops.net/klaatu/district99.php

Originally intended to be one of the first-completed legs of in-District public subsurface/surface commuter rail, the Green Line construction has been difficult from the start. Primarily serving the poorest parts of town (Fort Totten NW, to Anacostia, SE) the rail has also had some of the greatest construction engineering challenges. Driven through exceptionally deep tunnels, ostensibly to avoid surface disruptions, the tunnels have encountered such problems as an underground river, requiring the pressureized pumping of some 12 million tons of grout in order to establish sufficient footing so as to construct the tunnel walls, as well as very deep tunnelling to avoid disturbing landmark trees.

The Columbia Heights neighborhood has long been plagued by a general malaise; since the commercial strip was largely burned to the ground in the riots following the assassination of civil-rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, few have been willing to invest in Capitol Heights, and the neighborhood had generally gone downhill. Once Metrorail construction began in earnest, the neighborhood was reduced, like neighboring Petworth, to a devastated warzone, pocked by potholes, infested with displaced rats, obstructed by blocked off streets and sidewalks, and was in general ruined and reduced to a horrifically crime-plagued and employment-free enclave.

It has long been known that one day the Columbia Heights and Petworth Stations would be completed, and that the barricades and fencing would disappear, and since last year it has been known that Federal Revitalization monies would be added to other funding, repairing the streets -- already repairs and resurfacing have been ongoing elsewhere in places such as the Southeast Freeway and the 8th & Monroe Streets NE Bridge -- and pumping money into development, especially aiding with tax-breaks and other incentives anyone who wanted to start up a small business and employ locally. In preparation for this long-anticipated opening of the Columbia Heights Station, the District Redevelopment Land Agency had extended a request for developers to submit proposals to develop several vacant parcels of land near the Columbia Heights Station.

At present, passengers exiting the Columbia Heights Station emerge into a urban wasteland of barbed-wire fences and construction debris. Once you get out of that immediate ugly scene, you're still at the focus of even more ugliness. 14th Street and Park Road, NW, is by night a thriving open-air drug market, overlooked by the grim facades of abandoned businesses, some of which have not been a going concern for at least a decade. Various alleyways lead to blind lots, where vermin lurk. Nearby streets are, admittedly, a very eclectic mix of ghetto dwellers, gentrifying yuppies, struggling immigrants, and the terminally-hip yupster "alterna-stylers". The place has massive potential, once something's done about the desertified landscape.

[ ... ]

Thomas Hardman said...

Ah, here we go:

The Green Line Tunnel Experience remembered, from DC Watch's archive:

http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2006/06-08-06.htm

---->

[Herb Leonard was the WMATA PR officer] ...dramatically tested with the
construction of the Green Line. Although the line was supposed to have been
the first built in DC, prior to the Red, Blue, Orange, and Yellow Lines,
neighborhood squabbles regarding the route through the inner city and the
terminus of the line delayed its construction for nearly two decades. When
construction began on the first section of the Green Line, from Gallery
Place through Shaw to U Street, the WMATA Board approved construction plans
that resulted in a deep trench being dug the width and length of 7th Street
from F to U Street, and along U Street from Georgia Avenue to 14th Street.
For most of the years of construction, 7th and U Streets were closed to
traffic, and wooden boards served as sidewalks. Throughout those years,
Herbert Leonard forced WMATA officials and Board members to attend meetings
in church basements with area residents and businessmen to listen to and
address their concerns.

In the second phase of Green Line construction, from U Street to Fort
Totten, Metro indicated that in order to bring the Green Line through
Columbia Heights and Petworth, some two hundred homes would have to be
demolished. After months of community meetings, the WMATA Board reversed
itself, listened to the communitys outrage, and agreed to use special
underground tunneling equipment to avoid the construction disruption and
debacle that had occurred in Shaw.

<----

From my own blog at the time: http://www.earthops.org/district99.html

---->

[Circa Christmas 1999] The Columbia Heights neighborhood has long been
plagued by a general malaise; since the commercial strip was largely burned
to the ground in the riots following the assassination of civil-rights
leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr, few have been willing to invest in Capitol
Heights, and the neighborhood had generally gone downhill. Once Metrorail
construction began in earnest, the neighborhood was reduced, like
neighboring Petworth, to a devastated warzone, pocked by potholes, infested
with displaced rats, obstructed by blocked off streets and sidewalks, and
was in general ruined and reduced to a horrifically crime-plagued and
employment-free enclave.

<----

For other at-the-time commentary mostly taken from the _Post_ or from having
actually lived there at the time, see also
http://www.earthops.org/district98.1.html and search in the page for
"petworth" and/or "green line".

I stand corrected regarding the depth of much of the tunneling on the Green
Line, as per my own notes, sourced from the _Post_.

I must add that ten years after the Columbia Heights station was completed,
things are much changed down there, and in many ways, much improved. The old
tired run-down intersection of 14th Street NW and Park Road is a much
improved and bustling square with Metro on one corner of the square and a
massively revitalized shopping district on the other. Drive down there today
or tomorrow and you will see little trace of the scenes of a decade ago.

Dig a tunnel under Wayne and ten years after, I expect you'll be as happy
with the results are are the people now living in the vastly revitalized
neighborhoods right around 14th & Park. But at the time, it was pretty much
a slice of hell:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/growth/transport/grnmess.htm

---->

[ ... ]

Residents and business owners in Columbia Heights and Petworth -- where two
subway stations are being built -- are complaining of dirty and unsafe
streets, frequent interruptions in utility service, increased crime and
rats, constant noise and blocked streets that could prevent emergency
vehicles from quickly getting into the neighborhoods.

[ ... ]

Unable to remove buildings, construction workers and machines are confined
to tight spaces, only 20 feet from bedrooms in some above-ground areas and
even more confined underground, where workers must navigate around utility
lines. Transit officials knew that they would bother people, so they tried
to head off criticism by warning residents that the construction would
create dirt and noise.

Metro's admonitions were heard, many residents said, but the construction's
impact has been worse than predicted. The closing of 14th Street, for
example, has led to a scary scene each day as schoolchildren, seniors and
disabled people in wheelchairs try to cross pockmarked streets covered with
dirt and mud. Many don't even try.

The closed side streets make convenient escape routes for criminals on foot
because police cars can't get to them, residents say. In the 1400 block of
Chapin Street, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mary Treadwell said, there
have been four car break-ins in the last year, compared with only one in the
last 14 years. Some businesses have lost customers, they said, because
access has been blocked.

[ ... ]

<----

Etc etc etc.

Careful what you wish for, you might get exactly that.

Douglas A. Willinger said...

Yet the construction is in the past, with the completed tunnel in the present and for the future.

http://cos-mobile.blogspot.com/2007/08/classic-classism-kathryn-schneider.html