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

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