Purple Line NOW News - September 30, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • Action Alert - Urge Governor Hogan to Commit to Completing the Purple Line!
  • MDOT Briefing on Purple Line Status to Prince George's County Council
  • Purple Line in the News

Action Alert

While we have heard from, and are encouraged by, Governor Hogan’s capable staff who tell us that the state is committed to completing the project, as we mentioned in the last edition of Purple Line NOW News, we want to hear it from Maryland’s top elected official himself.

If you agree with us, please send a quick note to Governor Hogan and ask him to publicly announce his commitment to complete the Purple Line and take the steps necessary to swiftly resume construction.

Thank you in advance!

Stay Connected!

We have a new feature for those who prefer to print off our newsletter (or save it to a PDF) instead of reading in your email. If you visit our website and click on the title of the article you wish to print or save, you'll be brought to a page that has a small printer and PDF icon at the top. Click on the one you prefer. You do not need our permission to circulate or forward our newsletter.

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.



Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

In order for us to provide events like last month's forum for you at no cost and information like that which is contained in this newsletter, we ask you to consider supporting Purple Line NOW at whatever level you are most comfortable - all donations are very much appreciated! The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. 

We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality. We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you! 




Maryland Department of Transportation Briefing to Prince George's County Council

As we did in the previous edition of the Purple Line NEWs where we highlighted some of the key points from the Montgomery County Council’s briefing from the state, this week we bring you their briefing to the Prince George’s County Council which occurred on September 22, 2020.

Because the state’s briefing was similar to the Montgomery County briefing, we will focus primarily on new information that was given and on the questions asked by councilmembers. If you want additional information, we encourage you to listen to the briefing in full. As always, if you have questions, please send them along to us and we will try to get answers for you.

Kevin Quinn, Administrator, Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/MTA), Matt Pollack, Purple Line Project Director, MDOT/MTA, and Jaclyn Hartman, Chief Financial Officer for the Maryland Department of Transportation submitted their briefing in person via Zoom. Maryland Secretary of Transportation Greg Slater did not attend.

As with the previous briefing, Administrator Quinn addressed two main areas:

  • Status of Litigation
  • Status of Project Delivery

While he reiterated that he cannot talk about their legal strategy on the advice of counsel, he did say their focus right now is to “deliver the project to residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties." He continued by saying that they are coordinating closely with the concessionaire with the priority of making things safe as they begin to “button up” the various sites along the alignment.

Slope Protection - Talbot Avenue

Quinn said that the teams on the project delivery side are meeting daily with PLTP (the concessionaire) and working on solutions on every segment of the alignment for an orderly transition. He said that there were three phases in that transition:

  • Legal phase -- which is currently ongoing.
  • Short term management of construction.
  • Long term prospects -- how they will move forward.

Quinn said it is “too early to speculate” what the long-term plan will be. They will be taking a four- to six-month period to evaluate the entire scope of work to be done and identify options moving forward. He repeated what he said at Montgomery County’s briefing as it relates to settlement, chiefly that "the state remains open to a fair and reasonable settlement with a good partner for next 30 years.”

The plan for transition will be three-fold:

  • Safety – Identifying sites that must be buttoned up, making sure that they do not impede pedestrian access.
  • Keeping construction going by maintaining as much work as possible.
  • Once a full evaluation is completed, communicating plans to the communities via their respective CAT teams.

Matt Pollack spoke next and said that his team and PLTP are focused on protection of the work that has been done, leaving sites in safe condition, ensuring that the volumes of information and documents are in place, and talking to subcontractors in respect to the scope of work to be done. He mentioned that once the state fully takes over the management of the project, they will be managing in excess of 100 contracts and the state will need to bring on more staff to administrate those contracts previously managed by PLTP. However, he has “confidence that the right team is in place to move the project forward.”

Safety Line Removal - Connecticut Avenue

Councilmember Deni Taveras asked specific questions about whether, once all the bills have been paid and the increase in costs due to finding new partners to work with would not be more than just settling the lawsuit. Administrator Quinn answered that the amount the concessionaire was seeking was $800M, and while there was a monetary component to a settlement, there was also a “future risk” component, along with risks that would have been shifted to the counties, so that played into their decision, as well.

Taveras pressed Quinn and Pollack on whether they were taking into consideration businesses who were struggling because of the project’s construction, then the pandemic, and now looking toward having to endure a long delay in the project. The councilmember wanted to know what they were doing to help preserve those businesses. Quinn said that their priority in this short term is to identify work in those areas and that they would then try to mitigate some of that disruption. He said it would be “priority number one.”

Councilmember Dannielle Glaros was up next. You may remember the councilmember spoke about all that was going on in her district at our Purple Line NOW forum in August. She has been involved with the Purple Line for many years, many predating her time as a councilmember. Glaros said she is “trying to understand what is happening right now. Hardly any construction is going on along the line in her district where it was happening in early August.” She asked whether the state or PLTP is the appropriate point of contact right now? Mr. Pollack said that councilmembers and their residents should consider the state as their point person going forward. He said right now, the concessionaire is fully focused on demobilizing before being done with the project.

Currently, the state is negotiating the transfer agreement. The importance of the transfer agreement is that it gives the state the authority to work with some of the subcontractors. Pollack said that “until we have access to those subcontractors, we do not have a contract to move the work forward.” The actual sites have not been turned over yet, but they are creating protective measures for closing those sites. Once done, sometime in the next week or so, the concessionaire will hand over keys.

Glaros said, “Financially, I can’t wrap my head around this,” as she continued to press about where the money is going to come from to complete the project if the state still has to pay PLTC for some level of work. “I’m trying to figure out how anything that is happening right now is in the best interest of the county taxpayer, the state taxpayer. Help me understand the financial piece. How is the state going to deliver a project that does not skyrocket in price?”

Jacqueline Hartman, Chief Financial Officer for MDOT provided some specifics by explaining that “there are no past expenses sitting out there. In terms of moving forward, [had the concessionaire not quit], the next phase would have come from a TIFIA loan that developer would have taken out.” This aligns with what we have already heard that Maryland has paid directly for all the work thus far and that PLTP had not yet spent any of its contribution to the project or used its existing financing.

In lieu of using the contractor’s TIFIA loan, the state will take out alternate financing tied to the flexibility of the transportation trust fund which, she said, is a “consolidated source for all of transportation needs.” They will use that fund to keep the project moving forward, Hartman said, "and it would look and feel a whole lot like it did under P3.” Hartman indicated that this approach was preferred because, unlike directly issuing a bond, lending against the transportation trust fund has a limited effect on perceptions of Maryland’s overall credit worthiness. Glaros asked Ms. Hartman to clarify whether the rumor was true that the costs associated with the state take-over of the Purple Line means that other transit projects would be put on hold. Hartman said that “the trust fund supports all transportation and while it could mean additional cuts to transit, that is not the intent.”

Glaros said that she had already been concerned about some of the “value engineering” that Governor Hogan put in place at the contract start and requested whether we might see further cuts during the transfer. Mr. Pollack said that they were not seeing this as an opportunity for further value engineering. The design was largely completed and the state intends to pay the design team that had been working for PLTP to finish that work.

Glaros commented on her lack of confidence in the state’s ability to manage hundreds of contracts. She said, “this has been a roller coaster ride. Hanging at the top of loop upside down. I’m not sure whether we are going forward or backward and it is very tough on residents who so need the benefits of the project being left with empty infrastructure for a time frame that is not clear at this moment in time.” She encouraged the state to tell residents when they can expect to see a restart date as soon as possible.

Councilmember Mel Franklin asked directly whether construction has, in fact, stopped. “Where,” he asked, “is the state literally right now?” Mr. Pollack said that the work that is going on is only to make the sites safe as they close the them down. He said they are talking to those subcontractors they are able to while they wait for the negotiations to finish which will then allow them access to all subcontractors.

Secured South Entrance - Bethesda Metro

Purple Line in the News

The Purple Line has certainly been in the news of late. We have gathered some of the most timely articles here for you:

  1. Shaver, Washington Post, Purple Line construction workers will be packed up and ready to leave by mid-October, September 24, 2020.
  2. Glaros, Media Matters, The Purple Line Needs True Leadership, September 29, 2020.
  3. DuPuyt, Media Matters, Purple Line Will Be Delayed as MDOT Seeks Management Solution, September 23, 2020.

Purple Line NOW News - September 16, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • MDOT Briefing on Purple Line Status to Montgomery County Council
  • Photos from Around the Purple Line Corridor

Stay Connected!

We have a new feature for those who prefer to print off our newsletter (or save it to a PDF) instead of reading in your email. If you visit our website and click on the title of the article you wish to print or save, you'll be brought to a page that has a small printer and PDF icon at the top. Click on the one you prefer. You do not need our permission to circulate or forward our newsletter.

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.



Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

In order for us to provide events like last month's forum for you at no cost and information like that which is contained in this newsletter, we ask you to consider supporting Purple Line NOW at whatever level you are most comfortable - all donations are very much appreciated! The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. 

We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality. We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you! 




Maryland Department of Transportation Briefing to Montgomery County Council

Purple Line NOW has been advocating for the transit line for the better part of three decades and we have seen our share of ups and downs throughout that time. The news this week, out of the circuit court, which allows the project’s builder to abandon the project is certainly the most recent hurdle the project is facing.

If you missed Purple Line NOW’s official response to the news, you can read that press release here: Yesterday's Ruling: Purple Line NOW Presses for Path Forward.

Members of our organization sat in on yesterday's briefing by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) on the Purple Line. Expected representatives were to include Greg Slater, Secretary, Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Kevin Quinn, Administrator, Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/MTA), Matt Pollack, Purple Line Project Director, MDOT/MTA, and Christopher Conklin, Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT). Secretary Slater was unable to attend.

The key points to come out of the meeting involved timeline, plans, and pressing Governor Hogan to publicly comment and commit to finishing the project.


According to Mr. Quinn and Mr. Pollack, it will take about 30 days for them to assess the entire alignment, and by the end of that period, they expect to have a segment-by-segment, district-by-district breakdown of what can continue immediately, what may need to be locked up, where pedestrian access can be improved, etc. They are doing a walk-through with the concessionaire to makes sure areas under construction will be made safe for pedestrians.

Silver Spring Station - Deck Installation

Each reiterated that their focus is on keeping construction moving throughout the corridor in the short term while a long term plan is being worked out. This will be determined by a legal evaluation of the subcontracts, staffing capacity, as well as other critical areas of assessment.

The pair said that within four to six months, they will have a better idea of a path forward and what kind of package they will put together. Much of it will depend on how the litigation falls out, but Quinn repeated that it is their intent construction will continue during that time.

Moving Forward

Mr. Pollack said that they are looking at all options and the “cure” could involve one of, or a combination of, the following:

  • The state and PLTP comes to a fair and reasonable agreement and move forward.
  • The state takes over the project entirely.
  • Rebidding the project out for construction and/or design.

He emphasized that the final plan may include a combination of two or more options.

We did have a bit of good news yesterday. The Community Advisory Teams (CATs) will likely begin meeting again in November. We will let you know those dates when they are put on the calendar.


One of the questions we have been asked most in the wake of the news is what will happen to the workforce – will they be rehired or laid off in the face of an unprecedented pandemic?

Right now, with very little information being shared while the state works on assessing their options, Quinn reminded the Council that the answer depends on whether or not they hire subcontractors who could insist on managing the hiring of their own personnel. He said that until they come up with the plan, they would not be able to rehire workers immediately, but that current workers will certainly have a “leg up” having worked on the project. Purple Line NOW will keep asking these questions as more information comes out.


Councilmember Andrew Friedson asked the following questions and they are important ones as we gather more information and as the MDOT makes decisions concerning the future of the project:

  • What are the options?
  • How much will those options cost?
  • Who will pay for them?
  • When will they be delivered?

We all deserve answers to these questions as quickly as possible. One concern raised by some state and national elected officials is that these costs might disproportionately fall on other mass transit services.

Public Response from Governor Hogan

All Councilmembers pressed Mr. Quinn to communicate to Governor Hogan the need for a public statement about the state’s commitment to seeing the project built. Councilmember Reimer notably said, “Governor Hogan isn’t just a passenger on the train, he’s driving the train!”

Many Councilmembers noted the “punch in the gut” and were highly critical of the Purple Line Transit Partners (the project’s concessionaire) for potentially abandoning the project.

After the meeting was over, a new development reported by Katie Shaver of the Washington Post came to light -- both sides were considering using mediation to complete the project together. (K. Shaver, Washington Post, September 15, 2020.) Stay tuned.

If you have further questions, we are happy to try to get answers for you, so send them along.

Photos from Around the Purple Line Corridor

Campus Drive

New Carrollton Metro Station

Talbot Avenue Bridge, Photo Courtesy of Ralph Bennett

Yesterday's Ruling: Purple Line NOW Presses for Path Forward

Yesterday afternoon, over the State of Maryland’s objections, a Maryland Circuit Court judge ruled that the Purple Line Transit Partners (the concessionaire) will be allowed to depart the project, if they so choose, with a potential transition period measured in weeks.

Purple Line NOW President Ralph Bennett clarified what this ruling has not changed, “Maryland needs the east-west mobility, access to jobs, environmental benefits, and economic development the project will bring. The Purple Line remains a great value, so it was reassuring to hear Acting Project Director of Transit Development and Delivery for the Maryland Transit Administration Vernon Hartsock promise at Purple Line NOW’s forum in August that ‘the state is fully committed to the completion of the Purple Line project, regardless of how those negotiations end.’” 

Mr. Bennett is disappointed, however, that the state and concessionaire had not used the time granted by the stay to reach an agreement, “If the concessionaire abandons Maryland, it will add delays as alternate financing must be arranged while extending the disruption that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will have to endure.”

Bennett noted that the Maryland Department of Transportation has led the negotiations with the concessionaire and has been exploring alternate ways to finish the job. “The next step is clear,” he added, “whether the resolution will be a last-minute agreement or whether Maryland ultimately takes over construction, the buck stops with Governor Hogan. Maryland is the owner of this project and this disagreement has been allowed to fester for too long. The future riders of the Purple Line, residents and businesses disrupted by construction, and the workers braving a pandemic to keep the project moving forward need decisive leadership from the Governor. Whatever the outcome, a clear statement of commitment and a sense of the path forward should come from Governor Hogan.”

Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders reviewed what we have learned from the Washington Post (K. Shaver, Purple Line Builders May Quit, 10 September 2020) regarding the next steps forward. “Tough decisions await our elected leaders, but the Purple Line has already overcome greater challenges and delays. While Maryland has disputed the alleged magnitude and source of cost overruns, either a negotiated settlement or Maryland taking over the project will involve some increases in cost. The good news is that the Purple Line remains a great value. (Maryland Matters, 23 May 2020.)  This dispute does not undermine its fundamental strengths and even a significant cost increase will be offset by the billions in annual economic activity the completed line will stimulate.”

The immediate challenge is not the increase in cost, but the shift in financing to the public sector. Mr. Sanders summarized, “There are roughly a billion dollars in existing project financing that Maryland will need to take over. This financing would take six to twelve months to obtain, as the pandemic is already depleting the transportation trust fund.”

The concessionaire walking away from this project would be immensely harmful, but Sanders observed that there is some good news, "Fortunately, interest rates have dropped since the project began, the state retains a AAA bond rating (J. Sullivan, Baltimore Business Journal, 25 February 2020) and recent reports show that state finances are weathering the pandemic better than had been feared (P. Wood, Baltimore Sun, 9 September 2020). There are options, which is why we believe it was so important that Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater and Maryland Transit Administration Administrator Kevin Quinn repeatedly expressed their commitment to work hard to find solutions."

Purple Line NOW Treasurer Tina Slater pointed to the progress that has already been made as a vital reminder of the importance of the project, “Construction is 30 percent complete and can be seen in Bethesda, where the Purple Line will connect with a new entrance to the metro station, in Silver Spring, where a tunnel has been dug and bridges replaced, in College Park, where track has been laid past the new rail yard and maintenance facility where the first trains are being tested to New Carrollton, and where private sector construction is already booming.”

Ms. Slater recommends that Marylanders check out our recent forum to hear about concrete developments that have already taken place. Slater added that “In addition to our elected leaders, civil servants, and entrepreneurs highlighting developments in their neck of the woods, a study has found that there is already a ten percent increase in value for properties along the line. The Purple Line just makes sense, within its 16.2 miles, it connects major job centers, the University of Maryland, four branches of the Metro, all three MARC lines, as well as the Amtrak station at New Carrollton.” 

Slater noted that state and county officials have reiterated their commitment to the project, even in the face of these challenges, emphasizing that “we now need to hear from our state’s top elected official. The Governor was understandably reticent to speak while key issues were being resolved in court, but now the time is right for him to lay out a vision that cannot simply be deferred to his capable transportation officials. The speed with which we can finish the job will be a vital part of Governor Hogan’s legacy and we need his leadership.” 

Purple Line NOW News - September 2, 2020

In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:

  • Recap and Highlights from the August 20 Webinar

Stay Safe!

As the state continues to open and schools begin classes, we hope each of you are remaining healthy during this continuing pandemic.

Stay 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.



Please Help Us Continue Our Work!

In order for us to provide events like last month's forum for you at no cost and information like that contained in this newsletter, we ask you to have a look at the generous donors who make our work possible and, if you can, take a moment to join them. The black DONATE button below will take you directly to our donation page. Thank you to everyone!


ATU Local 689
John Carroll
Nancy and Rob Soreng
Eric Talbot

Anne Ambler and John Fay
Ralph Bennett
Steven Hurtt
John Robinson

Nick Brand
Bee and Brian Ditzler
The Martin Architectural Group
Mary Lanigan
Christine Scott and JohnR Llewellyn

Elizabeth Barbehenn, Tyler Christensen, Sean Dobson, Jonathan Elkind, Elaine Emling, Joseph Fainberg, Neil Greene, William Holleran, Melanie Isis, Ginanne Italiano, Greg Madden, Debbie and Ray Marquardt, Anita Morrison, Mark Posner, Frederick Schultz, Shirley Storms, Jerry Withers, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn

Merrie Blocker, Steve Brigham, Cathy Carr, Kris Colby, Nick Finio, Patrick Flaherty, Bradley Green, David Helms, Alexandra Knox, Daniel Marcin, Judith Morenoff, Tom Pogue, Martin Posthumus, John Undeland, Julie Zavala

Purple Line NOW, as you know, has been around for decades and we work hard to stay on top of the news, answer your questions, publish a bi-weekly newsletter, and host these informative fora several times a year. We don’t hold special event fundraisers, but when our coffers get low, we ask those of you who can, to consider a donation to Purple Line NOW. We will publicize your name (or your organization’s name) on our website and at our events as a way of thanking you and letting the community know how much you care about seeing this project finally become a reality.

We appreciate all donations, small or large. Thank you, thank you for your help in making this event a success! 




Getting Ready for the First Purple Line Ride - Webinar Recap

After many years of hosting in-person fora for the communities along the Purple Line corridor, Purple Line NOW hosted its first virtual forum on Thursday, August 20, 2020 with about 100 people in attendance. We had a jam-packed schedule of speakers, each of whom brought their own vision of what we can expect when the project is complete and we are finally able to hop on board to take that first ride!

Tonight's event looked at how we can prepare for the economic benefits of the Purple Line, as well as related questions of how we can help make sure that existing residents and businesses can participate in this brighter future.

For those who were not able to make the event, or those who want a refresher, we provide this recap which highlights some of the information our speakers shared with us. If you would like to listen to the webinar in full, a link is at the bottom of this recap.

Attendees were asked to submit questions in advance and we had a bunch! Answers to many of those questions are after the recap, but if you don’t see an answer to your specific question, please know that we are reaching out to the appropriate folks to gather that information for you and will either contact you directly (if your question was quite specific) or print answers here in an upcoming newsletter.

Purple Line NOW Board President, Ralph Bennett welcomed and thanked our panel, which included:

• Vernon G. Hartsock, PMP, Acting Project Director, Transit Development and Delivery, Maryland Transit Administration;
• The Honorable Dannielle M. Glaros, Prince George’s County Council Member (District 3);
• The Honorable Andrew Friedson, Montgomery County Council Member (District 1);
• Kipling Reynolds, AICP, Division Chief, Community Planning Prince George's County Planning Department;
• Casey Anderson, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board; Vicki Davis, President, Urban Atlantic Development;
• John L. Ziegenhein, President and CEO of Chevy Chase Land;
• Justin Kennell, Development Manager, Bozzuto Development Company.

Greg Sanders, Vice President of our Purple Line NOW spoke first and shared why he gives not only of his time as a volunteer for the organization, which was begun by his father, but also donates to Purple Line NOW. “With over 150,000 people living a half mile or less from a Purple Line station, east-west connectivity a quick under-10 minute ride from Silver Spring to Bethesda, and a forecast of removing 17,000 cars from the road with 69,000 new riders by 2040,” Greg told the group, “the Purple Line is important to our region.” Greg highlighted the fact that for much of its history, Purple Line NOW has convened an active group of labor, environmentalists, business,and transit activists, all volunteers who help guide its mission. 

Vernon Hartsock, who has been with MTA for 29 years, introduced himself to our attendees. He was the chief engineer for the project in a previous capacity, and going even further back, told us he comes from a railroad family, so this was in his blood! Eleven years ago, Vernon worked with Mike Madden and authored the engineering support contracts. Vernon’s enthusiasm for the project was evident when he said that "it was a dream to be an engineer on such a project!”

Vernon also introduced Matt Pollack who is the new Executive Director on the project, coming to MTA from private industry as a transit executive. While Mr. Hartsock was not able to discuss the issues of the open court case or the ongoing negotiations, he did say that he wanted to share his hope that it will be settled soon, and to reiterate that “the state is fully committed to the completion of the Purple Line project regardless of how those negotiations end."

Next up to speak was Prince George’s Councilmember Dannielle Glaros who updated us about some of the construction work that is ongoing right now in Prince George's County. She also discussed the Housing Action Plan put together by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition. The pandemic has only accelerated many of the concerns on housing.

Councilmember Glaros has nine of the 21 stops in her district and said, “with roads closed and her district heavily under construction, we are eager for the project to finish.” She went on to say that, “with the connection to MARC, WMATA, and Montgomery County, a lot is at stake with the Purple Line.”

Montgomery County Councilmember Andrew Friedson spoke to some of the economic development history of his district, even quoting Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who famously said, "bumpy rides lead to beautiful places!" Councilmember Friedson noted the importance of the environmental, economic, and east-west connectivity and said that the “benefits have only grown since the project was first conceived.” He noted that Purple Line NOW worked closely with him, along with his colleagues, to advocate for funding the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue, which is scheduled to open in 2026. He said that he hears from residents that, regardless of who ultimately is going to finish building the project, they want no further delays.

The Purple Line is already seeing value, even before opening day with headquarters, residential, and retail moving in throughout the corridor. Councilmember Friedson ended his remarks speaking about affordable housing, saying that he and his colleagues will have to be creative with all the other challenges facing the region, but he is confident that they can succeed.

Kip Reynolds, Division Chief for Community Planning, Prince George's County Planning Department briefed attendees on a range of efforts ongoing in Prince George’s county, including a number of pedestrian and bike improvements along University Boulevard, Riggs Road, and Cool Springs, and improved way-finding for residents and businesses which will include signage to identify the new Purple Line stations, parks, and community assets. Kip also provided a link to an app that they have developed to share information about the Purple Line in Prince George's County: Purple Line In Our Community.

Casey Anderson, Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, gave a concrete demonstration of some of the benefits of the Purple Line that cause the increase in housing values. Improved connection will be important, not just to future residents, but for those who live there now, and will dramatically improve access to jobs in the corridor. He also spoke to why project costs had increased, citing the choice of opponents to litigate the issue by “finding one federal judge that followed them down the rabbit hole and cost the public hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Casey also added that another lesson learned and something that has driven up the cost is that transit projects do not have the same “quick-take” authority that road projects do, emphasizing that MTA and transit projects need a similar level of authority, to avoid time and cost increases stemming from a prolonged property acquisition process. Casey said one of the things he is most looking forward to after the Purple Line opens is the ability to travel to Maryland’s flagship university for sports and other activities.

Vicki Davis, President of Urban Atlantic Development, was an early supporter of the Purple Line and transit-oriented development. She related to the crowd some of the development that her company is leading around New Carrollton, at the eastern terminus of the line. She spoke about new and planned commercial and residential space, some of it already in place as major job providers like Kaiser Permanente have moved in. She also shared some of the exciting changes planned, such as a wetland restoration effort and art planned from plazas to parking garages.

Vicki also mentioned the new WMATA headquarters with 350K square feet of space and 1,300 employees which will break ground in October, along with other development already in place, including an interactive park, a multi-family residential development, and a new 1,900 car garage serving many who take the train to New York and other parts from the New Carrollton station. She highlighted the sense of space they are trying to create with illustrative ideas and integrating art and light into the project.

John L. Ziegenhein, President and CEO of Chevy Chase Land and Justin Kennell, Development Manager at Bozzuto, spoke to the history of their project at Chevy Chase Lake. The company has held the property since 1892, back when it was originally a streetcar suburb. The lake was formed to be a power source for the original trams! Justin said that with the installation of the Purple Line station, they feel like their project "is coming full circle in bringing back public transportation history to the area." They are building new housing that emphasizes tranquility and charm and includes ground-level retail, anchored by a grocery store. There is going to be a Purple Line plaza that directly connects to the station and the Capital Crescent Trail.

Their project is being built in two phases, with the first well underway and about 60% complete. Some of the architecture will include a grand stair, which will be a passageway feature from the new station to the development and include art, lighting features, convenience, and mobility.

Finally, here are answers to some of the questions sent in from attendees:

1) Are there more plans for development in the works along the Purple Line route in both counties that haven't been approved yet?

Kip Reynolds: Prince George’s County does have pending applications, but things are on hold while the Countywide Map Amendment process is finished up which will facilitate development.

Casey Anderson: Long Branch development has some potential, but right now we have to have housing infrastructure first.

2) I have driven in the past week along several miles of the Purple Line path and notice few workers, and alarmingly, the track work on Arliss Street was cancelled. Did the judge require work to continue at a regular pace until the deadline?

Answer: In preparation for the original stoppage, some of the sites were indeed shutting down in the weeks prior, noting that some of the larger equipment sites had to be secured, etc. But, once the continuation order was announced, all work is ramping back up and they are fully complying with the directive.

3) Many large trees were cut down along the Purple Line corridor. How are these trees going to be replaced?

Vernon Hartsock: MTA is committed to replanting and leaving things in better conditions than they found them. Trees have been a hot topic for a long time. All loss of trees is being mitigated in accordance with the Maryland Forest Conservation Act.

Below are restrictions that impact where trees can be planted along the alignment. All of this has been taken into consideration when developing the landscape plans (which are posted online).

• Sight lines: 20 feet from the edge of travel lane primary at intersections
• Utility relocations: Utility offsets are dictated by the individual utility owners but are generally within the range of 10 – 20 feet
• Catenary wires: 20 feet from the catenary wire
• Right-of-Way: The Purple Line has done everything possible to minimize the limit of disturbance in order to minimize the impact to the community. We cannot plant anything outside of our project’s limit of disturbance.
• Medians must be greater than 6 feet in width to host any plantings.

We recommend that if a homeowner is interested in trees on their property where we removed one, they can contact their county and work directly with their tree programs to get a new tree. We are only able to plant with our right-of-way and not on a property owner’s private property.

Casey Anderson: Casey provided a slide before redevelopment at Pike & Rose and after development, and drew our attention to the “ocean of asphalt” in the before photo and the abundance of green in the second. He emphasized that many of the sites that are being redeveloped will be required to have trees replanted, sometimes in other areas, but that must be weighed against the benefits of providing transit, showing in the slide the environmental benefits with urban infill with storm water upgrades instead of run-off on untreated asphalt.

4) What will happen to existing affordable housing along the Purple Line?

Casey Anderson: It is important to have supply to support the workforce, but, he said, if we can’t manage that, we won’t be able to provide affordability. He went on to say that we need to increase the housing supply, and that we must include both affordable housing and market priced housing.

Andrew Friedson: We must have a creative approach, with a variety of solutions. We will want to maintain specific affordable housing providers within the county. He went on to say that we do not want a “one size fits all” approach and will work on a case-by-case basis to build enough housing to keep up with the demand.

Dannielle Glaros: Important to maintain and grow diversity and livelihoods in Prince George’s county. She is working hard with other councilmembers to keep small businesses alive during the pandemic currently.

5) How much will it cost to ride the Purple Line? Can we use our SmartTrip card? Will kids ride free?

Vernon Hartsock: Ticket prices have not been set yet. Not sure whether the SmarTrip card will be used – or another platform like cellphone app, etc. They will make an announcement when those decisions have been made.

Dannielle Glaros: Reminded everyone that the five University of Maryland stops will be free to University staff and students!

6) How are the Counties contemplating or already changing current zoning of communities for the stations that are adjacent to residential areas, like Woodside/16th St and Dale Drive?

Casey Anderson: Hopeful for redevelopment along 16th Street that is more ambitious and progressive. Potential for mid-use and retail. In Lyttonsville, residential and streetscape groundwork has been laid, but much will depend on the private sector.

Dannielle Glaros: They will be updating zoning ordinances after they finish the countywide map amendment process.

7) When will we be able to see the mock-up of Bonifant Street between Fenton & Georgia Ave?

8) Our question concerns train noise. We live near the Talbot Avenue bridge, and as Purple Line construction continues, we have noticed a higher incidence of trains using their horns in the late night and predawn hours, considerably exceeding the standard allowable decibel level for street noise. Is this expected to continue and/or increase once the Purple Line is operational and foot traffic increases? If so, this will cause the area to be unlivable for those who live near the tracks.

Vernon Hartsock: Noise is a prime concern and they are installing noise walls at various points, but we have zero control over what CSX does. It is CSX policy to sound a horn when approaching an at grade crossing, which there is one north of Talbot Avenue that I believe is what the homeowners are hearing. It is also their policy to sound the horn when entering a construction zone (such as the area of the Talbot Avenue Bridge). Both of which are safety requirements.

Thanks to our fantastic panel, to all attendees who made time to watch and listen, and for all the good questions that were submitted!

As we mentioned, we are working to get answers to as many of the questions asked that we can. You can watch the video of the webinar here: PLN Webinar Aug 20 2020. (Make sure you click the start arrow to begin the webinar.)

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