Purple Line NOW News - Prince George’s T&E Briefing

As promised, this edition of Purple Line NOW News brings a recap of the Prince George's County Council T&E Committee Briefing on February 28, 2019. Additionally, if you live inside the Purple Line corridor, we ask you to take a brief survey created by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition. Please take a moment to do so - and feel free to pass the link on to your friends and neighbors. 

Please feel free to share this newsletter - no permission from us needed! You can always find a link to our newsletter on our website (www.purplelinenow.com) which makes it easy to share with your friends, neighbors, constituents, customers, and employees.

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Our March 27 edition of Purple Line NOW News highlighted the Montgomery Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, & Environment (T&E) Committee briefing by Chuck Lattuca, Executive Director for Transit Development and Delivery for the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) and Fred Craig, the Chief Executive Office for the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP).

We would like to share with you the February 28th Prince George’s County Council briefing from Mr. Lattuca and Mr. Craig, which includes updated construction information specific to the county.

We encourage you to listen to the Prince George’s T&E briefing (which starts at about the 1:40 mark) as the presentation contains all sorts of interesting tidbits and slides, but in this newsletter we will attempt to give you the highlights, as well as share some of those slides with you.

The briefing was hosted by T&E committee chair Councilmember Deni Taveras and attended by other councilmembers of the committee.

Much of the general information overlapped with our previous newsletter (see link above), so we will focus on the Prince George’s County specific information in this edition.

Mr. Lattuca began by saying that MDOT was pleased to assist the University of Maryland’s Center for Smart Growth in obtaining a $2 million grant from the FTA which must be spent down in two years, so work is gearing up right now.

Mr. Craig reiterated that they are still working hard to be operational in late 2022 and moving quickly to catch up from the year-long lawsuit delay. County-wide, but especially in Prince George’s, this is one of the largest utility jobs (outside of hurricane reconstruction) in the country. He talked about the transformational aspect of the project and emphasized that the Purple Line will “give the community mobility to jobs and connections to cities as far as Boston and Richmond.”

Economic Growth and Opportunity

Making jobs accessible is another feature of the project, and the two slides below show how access to jobs will significantly increase once the line is operational. Pretty awesome, right?!

The project has been a “catalyst for renaissance,” Mr. Craig said, with billions (in dollars!) being spent in construction around the project. The slide below cites two examples - one in New Carrollton where Urban Atlantic and Forest are building a 2.7M square foot mixed-use development, and another in College Park where Corporate Office Properties Trust is developing a 75K square foot building. 

Specific to Prince George’s County, the Purple Line is already expanding economic opportunities.

Art-in-Transit

The goal of Art-in-Transit is to make the stations NOT look like a railroad and enhance neighborhood identities. A total of $6M has been allotted for artwork at the 21 stations, allocated equally among Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. You may recall a number of public meetings in the past few years that enabled selected artists to gain community input and get a better feel for their designs. Community representatives participated in the selection of the final art proposals and currently, contract negotiations are underway with selected artists. We are happy to hear that the station artwork is to be installed prior to passenger service!

Ellin Road and Veteran’s Parkway

As you can see by the slides below, work continues on Ellin Road and Veteran’s Parkway, as well as on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Coming later in the year (October 2019 through May 2020), Ellin Road Phase 2 will begin. At that time, Hanson Oaks will route to Veterans Parkway (which is a similar traffic pattern to what the area is currently experiencing.)

University Boulevard and University of Maryland

Both University Boulevard and the University of Maryland are dealing with utility relocation resulting in lane closures. MDOT SHA is currently evaluating lowering the speed limit on River Road to 35 mph.

Phase 1 of the Northwest Branch at University Boulevard will begin this month and last until March 2020. Traffic will shift to the south side to demolish and replace the north bridge. A pedestrian crosswalk has been added for sidewalk access.

Aesthetics and Landscaping

Trees are being replaced at "better than the 2:1 requirement stipulated in the contract," the concessionaire reported. Additionally, Mr. Craig said, "13 acres along the corridor is being reforested while every effort is being employed to spare trees during the construction process."

The councilmembers had a lot of questions following the presentation and we encourage you to listed to the entire briefing.

Slides courtesy of MDOT, MTA, and the PLTP. 

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PURPLE LINE NOW NEWS AND EVENTS

We are working on the next Purple Line NOW forum happening late spring/early summer 2019. The topic will be the trail and we are already lining up terrific speakers, so stayed tuned for the date announcement and official invitation SOON!

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PURPLE LINE NOW ACTION

PLCC Purple Line Housing Plan Survey

Purple Line NOW is working with the Purple Line Corridor Coalition as they create a Purple Line Housing Action Plan this spring, with a principal focus on preserving and producing affordable housing for the corridor from New Carrollton to Bethesda. The coalition is made up of public, private, and non-profit organizations who have banded together to ensure equitable outcomes for residents, small business owners, and neighborhoods along the corridor.

Before the group starts writing the plan, they are reaching out to residents, community groups, and many other stakeholders to gather input and guidance on what the plan should focus on specifically and what it should prioritize. On their behalf, we would greatly appreciate it if those of you living and working inside the corridor would take the following survey (which should take no more than 5-7 minutes to fill this out) and to let your friends and neighbors know about the survey, too. 

Click on this link: Take Me to the Survey! If you would like the survey in Spanish or would prefer a PDF version, contact our Executive Director, Christine Scott at cscott@purplelinenow.com.

Consider a Donation to Purple Line NOW This Spring

If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to become a sponsor - your name will appear at all events and on all promotional materials for a year following your donation. The benefits of sponsorship are listed on our website and donating is easy - just follow this link: I'd like to become a sponsor! There are several levels of sponsorship - and we appreciate them all! 

We are a not-for-profit organization with an active group of volunteers and one quarter-time employee. We operate on a bare-bones budget and appreciate every donation we receive.

Get Connected!

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.


Purple Line NOW News - Montgomery County T&E Committee Briefing

We have lots to share in this edition of Purple Line NOW News, with a recap of Montgomery County T&E Committee Briefing on March 21, 2019. Not to be outdone, we’ll also be sharing the Prince George’s County Council briefing with you soon.

Please share this newsletter with your neighbors, friends, and constituents - each edition is jam-packed full of great information! 

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Below is a short overview of the March 21, 2019 Montgomery Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, & Environment (T&E) Committee briefing by Chuck Lattuca, Executive Director for Transit Development and Delivery for the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) and Fred Craig, the Chief Executive Office for the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP).

We encourage you to listen to the Montgomery County T&E Committee Briefing as the presentation contains all sorts of interesting tidbits and slides, but we’ll attempt to give you the highlights as well as share some of those slides with you. 

The briefing was hosted by T&E committee chair Councilmember Tom Hucker and attended by other councilmembers of the committee including Hans Riemer, Andrew Friedson, and Evan Glass.

Mr. Craig began by confirming that passenger service remains targeted to start in late 2022. Right now, he said, project design is about 85% complete with remaining utility placement still outstanding, while construction on the project is about 10% complete, and vehicle (transit cars) is at 10% complete. He said that the Plymouth Tunnel and the Glenridge Operations Facility in Prince George’s county is slightly ahead of schedule.

Did you know the vehicles used for the Purple Line will require 600 hours of test time before they are put into service? In order to meet the appropriate hours of testing, those vehicles need to be stored and thus the storage facility on Veterans Highway is what is known as a “critical path item.” This means this part of the project is critical to the overall schedule which is why the construction there started early to accommodate the vehicle testing necessary. Right now, Mr. Craig said, the site is a “beehive of activity.” Mr. Craig described the cars as “rolling computers” – we can’t wait to see one in person soon!

Plymouth Tunnel and Noise Issues

The blasting work on Plymouth Tunnel was completed on February 26 and we wrote all about that milestone in our March 13 newsletter. It was a great day for the project and the crew working on it, with no surprises and no injuries. With the excavation complete, Mr. Craig describe the remaining work as “light, quieter, and with little vibration for the surrounding area” as was before. He went on to say the noisiest part of construction on the Plymouth Tunnel is largely over, except for truck traffic which can occur between 7 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. He said that nighttime activities are much quieter now and any noise-heavy activities will be done in the daytime from now on in this area.

Bethesda Station Shaft

Mr. Craig thanked the Council for their investment in the shaft and said the elevator shaft is currently about halfway to the Red Line depth. Weekday blasting will continue, as needed, but notifications will be sent via email and text ahead of time.

Because of the depth, he noted, the work is very dangerous. He described the crew taking on that work as “international caliber talent” and diligent in making sure that safety of the crew is the top priority. The noise from this work is quite muffled and when it happens, it is typically during the mid-day hours and of short duration.

Silver Spring Transit Center

Mr. Craig and Mr. Lattuca were asked about working with WMATA and CSX to make sure any closures have the least impact on pedestrians and current passengers. Both gentlemen stressed they are working closely with both WMATA and CSX to work simultaneously to minimize construction pain by piggybacking closures in the area. Pedestrian activities around the station should have minimal impact, but when and were there are detours, they will both make sure signage is abundant for safe passage. The work is to begin later this spring.

Lyttonsville Bridge

Although the bridge was opened about two weeks late, the community is satisfied with the result and happy to have the access back.

Public and Business Outreach

Mr. Hucker asked about how both MTA and PLTP are working to mitigate the impact on businesses as a result of the construction. Mr. Craig said they are doing their best not to schedule closures or work on the most active days for restaurant deliveries and patronage. Mr. Hucker asked both men to be as “creative as possible” in finding solutions to reduce the impact these businesses are experiencing, while acknowledging that once the project is built, the area will once again be a magnet for businesses and residents alike.

Workforce Diversity and Employment

Mr. Craig explained the project employs hundreds of workers and they have tried very hard to be a symbol of diversity by employing women and minorities in leadership positions. He also highlighted that even though the work on the project is short-lived, they will be leaving behind a legacy of skilled workers once completed.

Purple Line Safety

Mr. Lattuca said they are coordinating with MCDOT for good pedestrian access. He also pointed out much of the sidewalk construction will be a large improvement over what is in place now. All will be ADA compliant.

There will be adequate lighting and over 600 cameras deployed to monitor safety and security. MTA police (as well as campus police) will have a presence.

Project Delay and Cost Over-run

Mr. Hucker asked both gentlemen about the potential project delay and the resulting cost over-run. Mr. Craig said that despite what has been reported in the news, they are doing their best to stay on schedule and looking for areas where they can accelerate construction safely to meet the deadlines. Mr. Lattuca reminded everyone that the FFGA (Full Funding Grant Agreement) expires at the end of 2022 and they are certainly shooting to have the project completed by then. He said MTA is “bugging the concessionaire to work in a parallel fashion rather than a sequential one when appropriate.” Our readers will remember that there is a financial disincentive to the concessionaire for a delay in project completion.

Councilmember Glass asked about the potential for budget over-run, to which they both reiterated their goal of completing the project “safely, quickly, and on budget.”

The Trail

Councilmember Friedson wondered whether the trail needed to be closed until completion of the project. Mr. Craig said he will discuss with the contractor whether opening portions of the trail early might be a possibility down the line. He promised to find out and get back to the Council with some answers. Mr. Friedson emphasized that the trail is important to the community – folks rely on it not only for recreation, but to get their kids to school and to commute to work.

Mr. Hucker concluded the meeting by saying the project was the biggest “economic opportunity to enhance quality of life” in our community and thanked both Mr. Lattuca and Mr. Craig for their continued diligence in making sure the project was well built, done quickly, reliable, and safe. And, he added, on budget.

Again, we encourage you to watch the briefing (about 45 minutes long) for information and answers to a whole host of questions. And do sign up for construction updates so you are aware of closings and detours.

Slides courtesy of MDOT, MTA, and the PLTP. 
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PURPLE LINE NOW NEWS AND EVENTS

We are working on the next Purple Line NOW forum happening late spring/early summer 2019. The topic will be the trail and we are already lining up terrific speakers, so stayed tuned for the date announcement and official invitation!

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PURPLE LINE NOW ACTION

If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to become a sponsor - your name will appear at all events and on all promotional materials for a year following your donation. The benefits of sponsorship are listed on our website and donating is easy - just follow this link: I'd like to become a sponsor! There are several levels of sponsorship - and we appreciate them all! 

Please feel free to share this bi-weekly newsletter with others who may appreciate information about the project. As always, if you have any feedback on how we can improve the newsletter, drop us a line! 

If you find the information contained in our newsletter useful, please consider a donation to us - we are a not-for-profit organization with an active group of volunteers and one quarter-time employee. We operate on a bare-bones budget and appreciate every donation we receive.

Get Connected!

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.


Purple Line NOW News - Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson Briefs Purple Line NOW

We have lots to share in this addition of the Purple Line NOW News, with a recap of Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson's presentation to the Purple Line NOW Board on housing trends and affordability in the county, as well as an exciting construction update (with photos!) of the major milestone breakthrough of the Plymouth Tunnel. So, grab a cup of coffee and settle in!

We also have more good news to share. Did you know a federal judge last week dismissed a second lawsuit brought by opponents of the Purple Line, saying they had not "proven an 'injury' under the law"? You can read about it here: Judge dismisses second lawsuit against Purple Line project.

Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson Briefs Purple Line NOW

At our January Purple Line NOW Board of Directors meeting, we were thrilled to welcome Casey Anderson, Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, to brief us on housing trends and affordability in the county.

Casey acknowledged that he hears a lot of concern about real estate development near the new Purple Line stations that could force out existing affordable housing (especially, he noted, in Long Branch and Lyttonsville). In his presentation, Casey gave us the opportunity to take a closer look at what is actually happening along the route.

The first concern he hears is that existing Multi-Family Housing (MFH) stock will be torn down and redeveloped. Many residents believe that older garden apartments and currently affordable MFH near transit stations will be redeveloped into luxury apartments/condos.

So, the Planning Board decided to do some research (you can find some links to the study at the end of this article). Staff studied all MFH parcels which were redeveloped since 1990. Casey asked us to guess how many MFH parcels were redeveloped during this 30-year period (someone guessed 50, someone guessed 2!)

The real answer: only six MFH were redeveloped in the past 30 years! Two are affordable MFHs (the Bonifant in Silver Spring and another HOC in Chevy Chase Lake.) Others are the Blairs in Silver Spring, several apartments in Glenmont, “The Lauren” at 4901 Hampden Lane in Bethesda, and “The Cameron” on Cameron Street in Silver Spring, close to United Therapeutics.

Casey went on to say that the six MFH units which were redeveloped since 1990 yielded a net increase of 318 regulated affordable units (MPDUs). Bottom line: fears that existing MFH near transit will be redeveloped has not been borne out by the statistics.

The second concern he hears is centered around displacement of Single Family Housing (SFH) units. According to Planning Board research, there have been 4,400 SFHs torn down since 1990 – the average has been about 150 teardowns per year. However, since 2015, that number has been increasing and is currently around 250 teardowns per year. About half of those are in Bethesda and the rest are in Potomac, Chevy Chase, and Silver Spring. These teardowns are due to market pressure – some people may move here for our good schools, while many others may not be able to afford a SFH in DC and therefore come to Montgomery County.

And, more so than “teardowns”, it is the improvement and additions to existing SFSs that is causing much of the displacement and again, it’s market pressure driving this. Ultimately, the impact is on middle income folks, who are important for our workforce, being priced out of the close-in SFHs. Casey reminds us to note that it is NOT the affordable units that are being displaced or upgraded. In fact, expensive homes are being torn down to build even more expensive homes.

A few other notes from Casey’s presentation:

  • Concerns about “upzoning” are not supported by evidence. In fact, it is the opposite. The increased remodeling and additions to existing SFH units result in reduced opportunity for moderate income families to find housing.  
  • The number of affordable units has held steady over time. Granted, the population has also increased during this time, BUT the number of affordable units has not decreased.
  • What we are not dealing with is the issue of supply. In 2018, only 1,500 to 2,000 new units were built (much lower than in prior years). Between 1990 and 2005, we were building 3,000-5,000 units per year!
  • Population growth in the county is slow and steady. Meanwhile, there is a decline in the annual supply of housing being built and we have had weak income growth.
  • We simply do not have enough housing supply, and it is not because of fancy condos. We are simply not building enough units!

In closing, Casey highlighted the three most defining factors affecting affordable house availability in Montgomery County:

  • Slow, but steady population growth.
  • A decline in annual supply of housing being built.
  • Weak economic growth and stagnant wages.

A big thank you to Casey and his staff for all of their hard work!

Want more information?

  • See highlights of Gwen Wright’s/Planning Staff research in a January 24 Washington Post article by Katie Shaver:

Study: Montgomery County has grown older, more diverse and pricier

  • See actual Planning Staff research report (100 pages). This will help inform the General Plan being developed:

Montgomery County Trends A Look at People, Housing and Jobs Since 1990

 

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

Plymouth Street Breakthrough!

From Wikipedia:

Tunnel hole-through, also called breakthrough, is the time, during the construction of a tunnel built from both ends, when the ends meet, and the accuracy of the survey work becomes evident.

The Purple Line reached a major milestone last week when it broke through the western portal of the Plymouth Street Tunnel

Work crews broke through the bottom portion of the tunnel’s western rock wall, substantially completing excavation of the tunnel. Excavation of the top portion of the 1,020-tunnel was completed in December 2018. Enjoy the pictures, (courtesy of MTA, the Purple Line Transit Partners, and our own Greg Sanders who was in attendance) and the awesome video (Plymouth Tunnel Hole-through). Call us geeks, but this stuff is exciting!



Purple Line NOW joined the media to witness an excavator piercing through the final portion of rock and the moment of breakthrough. It was an exciting morning for the crew, the team, and all who are eager to see the project up and running soon!

 

A few other tidbits:

  • Most of the Purple Line construction is still in front of us, but the completion of the half-mile Plymouth Street two-layer excavation effort is a major accomplishment.
  • Completion is ahead of schedule and is progress towards the goal PLTP CEO Fred Craig stated at our January Purple Line NOW Forum in College Park of making up time lost to the lawsuit.
  • There is still much work to be done in the tunnel, including milling of the walls, laying the track-bed, and water-proofing. It should be ready for test runs in early 2022, or late 2021, if things run smoothly.
  • This should bring to an end the loudest of the overnight work in the tunnel, which is exempted from county noise ordinances, though neighbor groups are in communication with MTA about what the next step will entail.

Fun details:

  • The construction site is also the location of the Manchester Place Station, between the Wayne Avenue station to the west and the Long Branch station to the East.
  • The tunnel is necessary because of the large Wayne Avenue hill, which is also known to prompt despair or exultation in bikers depending on their direction of travel.
  • There were pillars because the large wall predated the construction effort, the construction site presently has an extensive series of horizontal support pipes, each over a meter in diameter, and one is purple (and we love it!)

Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders described the hoe ram as, "not just jack hammering, but also nudging small boulders off of their rebar cage, as if the crane arm were the helpful head of a civic-minded dinosaur." How do you like that for some visual?!

Congratulations to everyone on the team! What an exciting day for the Purple Line!

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PURPLE LINE NOW NEWS AND EVENTS

We are working on the next Purple Line NOW forum to happen in late spring/early summer. The topic will be the trail and we are already lining up terrific speakers, so stayed tuned for the date announcement and official invitation!

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PURPLE LINE NOW ACTION

If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to become a sponsor - your name will appear at all events and on all promotional materials for a year following your donation. The benefits of sponsorship are listed on our website and donating is easy - just follow this link: I'd like to become a sponsor! There are several levels of sponsorship - and we appreciate them all! 

Please feel free to share this bi-weekly newsletter with others who may appreciate information about the project. As always, if you have any feedback on how we can improve the newsletter, drop us a line! 

If you find the information contained in our newsletter useful, please consider a donation to us - we are a not-for-profit organization with an active group of volunteers and one quarter-time employee. We operate on a bare-bones budget and appreciate every donation we receive.

Get Connected!

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.

 


Purple Line NOW News - February 27, 2019

If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to become a sponsor - your name will appear at all events and on all promotional materials for a year following your donation. The benefits of sponsorship are listed on our website and donating is easy - just follow this link: I'd like to become a sponsor! There are several levels of sponsorship - and we appreciate them all! 

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CONSTRUCTION NEWS TO KNOW

This week, courtesy of the Maryland Transit Administration, we're excited to bring you some behind-the-scenes photos of construction progress from across the Purple Line corridor. There's so much happening in Montgomery and Prince George's counties that we couldn't pick just one construction zone to highlight for this edition. Enough talk, let's get to the pictures!

Storm drains are being installed left and right along the Purple Line route. In Prince George's County, crews are busy installing storm drains along the section of Ellin Road that is currently closed to traffic.

And, in Montgomery County, crews are putting storm drains into place along the Georgetown Branch Trail near Connecticut Avenue.

As we reported last month, rebar is going in and concrete is being poured at the Glenridge yard for the future Purple Line Operations and Maintenance Facility. Crews are working around the clock to construct the facility, as evidenced by the nighttime photo below.

The Lyttonsville Place bridge reopened to vehicular traffic in mid-January and since that time crews have continued to work on the rest of the bridge, including construction of the sidewalks. Crews will remain on site through 2019 to complete the drop-off lanes and access to the future Lyttonsville Station and Capital Crescent Trail.

About a half a mile from the Lyttonsville Place bridge, crews are removing the deck of the Rock Creek trestle bridge along the Georgetown Branch Trail. The trestle will be replaced with a new pedestrian bridge which will be wider than the former bridge and allow trail users to stop and enjoy the view while cyclists and runners continue on their way.

Finally, we have some pictures from the Plymouth Street Tunnel being constructed in Silver Spring. Crews celebrated break through to daylight at the end of 2018 and have moved on to installing electric cable through the length of the tunnel. And, at the tunnel's western portal, workers are installing tiebacks along the northern wall, which will provide stability to the retaining wall.

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PURPLE LINE NOW NEWS AND EVENTS

Stay tuned for an announcement of the next Purple Line NOW forum - coming soon!

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PURPLE LINE NOW ACTION

Please feel free to share this bi-weekly newsletter with others who may appreciate information about the project. As always, if you have any feedback on how we can improve the newsletter, drop us a line! 

If you find the information contained in our newsletter useful, please consider a donation to us - we are a not-for-profit organization with an active group of volunteers and one quarter-time employee. We operate on a bare-bones budget and appreciate every donation we receive.

Get Connected!

Make sure you are signed up for timely alerts from Purple Line NOW via our Twitter and Facebook pages, and at our website Purple Line NOW.



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