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Purple Line NOW News - July 28, 2021

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

  • What's Happening at PLN?
  • Purple Line in the News
  • Features & Highlights
    • The Purple Line and Local Business Communities
  • Construction News
    • Sleaford Road Underpass
    • New Tallest Building in Silver Spring
    • Questions and Answers from the Community Advisory Team Meetings
    • Photos Around the Purple Line Corridor

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What' Happening


Please Help Us Continue Our Work

We appreciate your consideration of a donation to Purple Line NOW which will help us continue to offer events like the webinar we hosted last month throughout the year, free of charge to all participants as well as this information-packed newsletter. We do not host special event fundraisers, nor do we receive underwriting grants from any source, government (local or otherwise), nor are we a membership organization (we do not ask for annual dues). We rely solely on support from donors like YOU!

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As always, a great big thank you to ALL OF OUR DONORS! We simply could not do our work without your support. If you don't see your name on our website link, you can donate by clicking the purple button below. 

Thank you, thank you! Especially after the year from which we are all slowly emerging, a great big THANK YOU!


PL in the News


Ezra Klein Interviews Jerusalem Demsas (E. Klein, July 23, 2021, New York Times)

The New York Times Ezra Klein podcast included a discussion on the delays to the Purple Line that built on the Vox article on transit costs included in last week's newsletter. The discussion with the journalist Jerusalem Demsas comes at the 21 minute mark and while a frustrating reminder of the sources of delay, the piece also touches on the workers who currently must ride multiple bus lines who will have a better transportation future once the Purple Line is complete.

Features and Highlights


The Purple Line and Local Business Communities

If you've read our prior newsletter, you've heard that Maryland Purple Line project management office is standing up a Business Engagement Team. The past few weeks have seen that team in action with Executive Director for Transit and Delivery Matt Pollack meeting with the Riverdale area business community and the local business community in Silver Spring to discuss how the Purple Line will run on Bonifant Street east of Georgia Avenue in downtown.

If you have a business along the line or know someone who does, the team is available to help foster relationships. The team consists of:

  • Lesli Leath, Business Relationship Manager, [email protected], 1-240-695-9269
  • Minh Diep, Business Engagement Officer for Montgomery County, [email protected], 1-551-206-5889
  • Marlene Veras, Business Engagement Officer for Prince George’s County, [email protected], 1-443-802-1608

What Would You Like to See At the Next Purple Line NOW Forum?

We are beginning to think about the next Purple Line NOW forum, set to occur sometime this fall. What would you like to know more about? General updates? Specific focus areas? Campus and the Purple Line highlights? Send your ideas to [email protected] and we'll try to make it happen! 

Construction Updates


Sleaford Road Underpass

MDOT has announced via letter that the pedestrian and bicycle underpass at Sleaford Road can be completed within this year despite earlier fears of delay for budgetary reasons. The letter notes that the underpass can be advanced largely by Maryland directly while a variety of other key priorities will require the selection of a new design build contractor which is expected to take place this fall.

New Tallest Building in Silver Spring

In another form of construction news, the new tallest building in Silver Spring, in the Ripley District near the Silver Spring Metro and future Purple Line station, has just topped out. The Montgomery County Council also approved a new apartment building that will include 74 affordable housing units and will be within a thousand feet of the Piney Branch Road Purple Line Station.

Community Advisory Team Meeting Questions and Answers

As promised, we wanted to let you know that the questions and answers from many of the Community Advisory Team meetings are now posted to the MDOT MTA website. We encourage you to check out those for your area.

Below are a few questions (and answers!) from each of the stations currently published. We’ll let you know when the remaining stations go up, as well.

For those of you new here, MDOT MTA hosts a series of Community Advisory Team meetings (now done virtually) about every six months. The spring/summer meetings concluded earlier this month. We’ll let you know when the next round is scheduled for later this fall.

Just a reminder: There are loads of questions posted for each of the CAT meetings online. The following represent just a few questions from each. First, though, here are some that we thought were general enough as to be of interest to all:

Did the Purple Line gain any needed additional funding with the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act or the previous coronavirus relief bills?

Response: Since its inception, the Purple Line has had federal financial support. In August 2017, in Glenridge, Governor Larry Hogan and then-United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao signed a $900 million full funding grant agreement, locking in federal dollars for the project. That funding remains intact. The American Rescue Plan Act solidifies that funding but does not add to it.

How loud are the light rail cars? Are they as loud as Metrorail cars?

Response: We expect that the light rail will be quieter than Metro. A lot of Metrorail is up in the air, so it is louder and generating noise through all the elevated structures. The Purple Line will be mostly on street level. The other piece has to do with speed, and they are operating at a higher speed. Additionally, Purple Line cars are equipped with special wheel covers to help reduce noise.

What work does the design-construction partner do? Is it expected that a design construction partner will be on board before the utility relocation work is completed?

Response: Once the new design-builder is on board, they will complete construction to bring the project to revenue service. We have a certain amount of utility relocation the state is undertaking, but we will not be able to get to all of it before the new design-builder is on board and they will be doing some of their own utility relocations.

Now, on with the stations!

Bethesda (June 8, 2021)

The intensive development around the Conn. Ave. Station has raised concern regarding the flow of traffic in that area. Presumably there will be both buses and private vehicles dropping passengers off for the Purple Line. With hundreds of residential units and a large number of commercial properties being built adjacent to the Station there will be additional volume throughout the day. What measures are being undertaken to avoid buildups on Conn. Ave., Manor Road, Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Chevy Chase Lake Terrace?

Response: Most of the Purple Line stations, including this elevated station, have been designed as neighborhood stations where users will be walking, biking, or taking alternate transit to access the stations. Connecticut Avenue is not intended to operate as a drop-off lane for private vehicles. Appropriate signage will be in place. Regarding the ongoing and upcoming private developments underway in the surrounding areas, each developer should be coordinating with MDOT SHA and Montgomery County regarding traffic studies and any accommodations necessary due to traffic volume increases. We will work closely with partners at MDOT SHA and Montgomery County to mitigate any future problems that may arise.

Assuming the fall acceptance of a new design-build contractor, when do you anticipate construction to begin and will the MTA have a voice in the sequence of projects completed? Will the Capital Crescent Trail be available during the testing phase?

Response: The Capital Crescent Trail construction is going to proceed according to the design schedule that the new design-builder puts forward. There are no anticipated delays due to cost overruns that may occur in the future. At this time, the Capital Crescent Trail is fully in the design and part of the construction plans and will be completed with the rest of the project.

Does MTA have any say in the order in which some construction activities resume? For example, the South entrance to the Bethesda metro station needs to be completed so Elm St. can be reopened. The current state of this entrance is also impacting the Metro Tower project at 7316 Wisconsin.

Response: The state does not have the ability to dictate sequencing of the work. The design builder is responsible for creating the critical path to completion. Anything that MDOT MTA would do to change their schedule as far as giving them different priorities would impact their ability to complete the overall project. So, in that case we are limited, and we will essentially hold them to their end date, not interim project milestones.

Silver Spring (May 25, 2021)

Once utility pipes have been relocated it is my impression that all that’d be left to do is laying the tracks and landscaping on our block. Can this work be done in the daytime so the residents in our senior citizens building can be allowed to sleep?

Response: Once utility relocations are complete, there are still many additional phases of work that will occur. Utility relocations will be followed by storm drain work, road repaving, sidewalk replacement, track laying, catenary pole placement and systems installation. Lastly, we’ll do the landscaping for the area pending the seasonal conditions. We try to do as much work as we can during daylight hours to limit disruptions to our neighbors.

Should we expect our water to be cut off again (on Bonifant) or is this part of the project completed?

Response: The previous water cut off was due to a leak in the existing system and not a result of the relocation tie-ins. That repair was needed quickly, therefore there wasn’t much time for notifications about this unfortunate event. We did have our field engineers go door to door, and our Outreach team made calls to the contacts they had. There will be at least one planned outage expected for tie-in work. This outage will be coordinated in advance through WSSC, which will notify their customers directly.

Saturday work on Bonifant Street is problematic for the businesses. Can work occur on Sundays instead?

Response: During this ongoing MDOT MTA managed construction period, the State will make every effort to limit Saturday construction work along Bonifant Street. If weather or other events impact the construction schedule, the State will endeavor to use Sundays as the bad weather make-up day.

Long Branch (June 15, 2021)

What steps remain for tunnel construction?

Response: Excavation within the tunnel was completed by the previous contractor. Right now, we are focusing on walls near the tunnel. Once the new design-build contractor is on board, they will finish the construction, including completion of systems, lighting, communications, track placement, construction of the Manchester Place station, and restoring traffic conditions around the tunnel.

Concern expressed regarding the conditions of the road(s) in the Long Branch area (Bradford and Plymouth Street). Roads are in bad shape with lumps, ridges, trenches, and depressions work trucks have left and the patch jobs do not last. Does anyone inspect our streets?

Response: We will review the roads within our limit of disturbance and determine any repairs. Roads outside of the project limits are the responsibility of the road owner, either the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) or Montgomery County. If specific sites can be identified, we can help sort through ownership in advance.

Arliss Street was supposed to be closed for construction. When will that be happening?

Response: The portion of Arliss Street between Garland Avenue and Flower Avenue has been closed as part of the tunnel construction. The southern segment will be part of the next design builder’s work to build out the track from the portal all the way down Arliss Street to the station. Access to the apartments will be maintained.

University Boulevard (May 19, 2021)

Will Prince George’s County be funding new sidewalks on University Blvd. near its intersection with Adelphi Rd. or is that part of the Purple Line scope?

Response: While utility work is ongoing, however, the project is not installing final sidewalks or traffic signal crossings, unless it is needed for utility work. That work will occur by the new design-builder once they are brought on board. We do have a responsibility to replace a sidewalk that is removed for utility relocation. The Purple Line will be building new sidewalks on University Blvd. within our project’s alignment. We cannot speak to what improvements Prince George’s County will make.

Along with the plans, are there renderings of the plans, especially at the intersections to see pedestrian crosswalks, etc.?

Response: We do have landscape plans available on our website and station renderings. However, they do not show pedestrian crosswalks since many of the designs are not final as this is a design-build project. We can share engineering drawings with you if you are interested in seeing those to see the sidewalks and crosswalks in the final condition.

What does the team think is the biggest challenge going forward on University Blvd.? What is the biggest opportunity from the team’s perspective?

Response: Our biggest challenge is getting the utilities out of the way. This utility relocation is very disruptive, as we are in travel lanes continuously up and down the roadway. We have a certain amount of utility relocation the state is undertaking, but we will not be able to get to all of it before the design-builder is on board. We want to make sure the contractor is fully cognizant of what they need to be doing and they are prepared to go out there and continue with the completion of utility work so that we can take the next steps which will be ultimately laying the tracks down the corridor. The opportunity is as we finish our construction, Prince George’s County will come in and do additional work beyond what the scope of the Purple Line is to increase the pedestrian feel of the whole area. The county is currently engaged in a study looking at a series of potential areas of the Cool Spring/Adelphi area.

College Park (June 22, 2021)

Can you identify when the bus loop will be reopened?

Response: We are anticipating Winter 2021 for the bus loop to be reopened.

What is the design of the bus loop?

Response: The bus loop is a standard loop design. There are two stormwater facilities in between the wall and right near the entrance where the buses will turn from and onto River Road. The bus loop has a saw-tooth pattern and will feature new upgraded lighting and landscaping.

Will bus stops and bus routes be affected? Where will they be located?

Response: We do not dictate the bus stop locations or routes along the project alignment. Those are determined by the bus operators, including the University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services.

Photos from Around the Corridor

Purple Line NOW would like to take a moment to thank the hardworking Purple Line crews for their diligent and careful work during these hot summer months!


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