In today's edition of Purple Line NOW News, here's what you'll find:
- ICYMI: Our Story, Our Future
- Purple Line in the News
- Features & Highlights
- Congratulations to Holly Arnold
- Construction News
- Maryland Department of Transportation Program Presentation to Montgomery County Delegation
- Photos Around the Purple Line Corridor
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WHAT'S HAPPENING AT PLN?
Our Story, Our Future
(We are SO grateful for your response to our story below which we originally sent out last week -- and to all of our donors who have helped us along the way, through the years, and in our most recent appeal. If you don't see your name on our donor list, we hope you will take a moment to consider us in your holiday giving. Thank you, thank you!)
As we head into the holiday season, we want you to know how grateful we are for your support, some of you for years, some of you new to us – all appreciated and critical to our continued mission of making the Purple Line a reality for our community.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we hope you will take a moment to read our story, the news about our future, and what may be on the horizon for Purple Line NOW.
First, though, we thought we would tell you a little more about ourselves.
The Purple Line itself began as an idea, way back in the 1980s. As Greg Sanders, our current Vice President and our founder Harry Sanders’ son, explained to Bethesda Magazine at the groundbreaking for the project in 2017, his father “first came up with the idea of turning the former CSX right-of-way between Bethesda and Silver Spring into a transit way while he was in the family’s living room in 1986 with other longtime advocates, such as Ross Capon.”
Harry and others decided that an advocacy group, dedicated solely to making sure the Purple Line was built, would be an important part of the process. While our group has been around in one form or another since that idea was born, we formally registered as a nonprofit organization in 2002.
Since that time, (and if we are honest, some days it feels like yesterday, but most days, it feels like decades!), a dedicated group of volunteers has met regularly, each and every month, for years, to share information and tackle hurdles that stood in the way progress.
Sometimes those hurdles were financial – where would the money come from? Can the counties work together to fund a portion of the project? Sometimes those hurdles were political and other county and state (and federal) issues took priority. But, our mission remained steadfast, year in and year out. And, for the majority of that time, all of the work we accomplished was done solely by a large group of dedicated volunteers who gave their time, their elbow grease, and their financial support.
Today, our board of directors meets formally four times a year, and the Purple Line NOW leadership team (our executive committe) meets each and every month, these days by Zoom call, of course!
Left to right, clockwise: Barbara Sanders, At-large Executive Committee Member, Greg Sanders, PLN Vice President, Nancy Soreng, PLN Secretary, Christine Scott, Executive Director, Tina Slater, PLN Treasurer, Ralph Bennett, PLN President
In 2009, I was hired as their part-time executive director to take some of the administrative load off volunteer leadership as the project got closer to ground-breaking. Now, twelve years later, I can report that because of your help, financial and otherwise, this group hasn't lost a beat!
Many of you have worked with us, either as a board member, a committee team-mate, or a sister organization, and it has been inspiring to watch how you, as a member of our wider community of volunteers, continue your tenacious, but gentle approach to problem-solving, with a keen eye on continued community-building as the project gets closer and closer to ribbon-cutting.
For those of you new to us, who support us in big and small ways, please know that we appreciate your help. It all matters. It really does.
As you probably know by now, Purple Line NOW doesn’t do any fundraising events. We don’t have corporate underwriting or large grants to support us.
Progress and Plans
No question, and we are not unique here by any stretch, the past two years have been difficult. The loss of the project’s builder certainly didn’t help.
We have been pleased to watch MDOT MTA pick up the reins and continue work on those difficult utility relocations as they called out for new builders to apply, waded through the submissions, and finally are poised to announce the winning company in the coming weeks. In the background, the new builder will be handed over a cleaner sheet with a lot of the difficult utility relocation work out of the way.
In the meantime, despite that devastating loss, our advocacy group kept moving forward. We continued to offer our very popular forums, focusing first on development happening around the corridor and then a thorough status update with Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation just a few months ago.
Here is a sneak peak for our newsletter readers – we heard you! You want another forum on the Capital Crescent Trail, and we are working to bring that to you early next year!
Our flagship publication, the Purple Line NOW News, continues to be published every other week, and we are working to bring you new features, some of which many of you have requested in our survey earlier this year.
We continue to attend and engage in civic meetings, working on adjacent issues like the environment, other transit opportunities, housing, and pedestrian and biker safety. Most of our board members and volunteers are members of multiple organizations and come to our board meetings armed with knowledge and updates. On your behalf, they testify, they report, and they offer input.
We also have acted as an unofficial liaison between residents (and business owners) and the builders and state. You wrote to us asking for help in getting more trees, for help having graffiti removed, for help in tidying up construction sites, to get more signage, to address dangerous pedestrian crossings, and one time, someone asked us to help remove snakes from their yard! Thankfully, our job description doesn’t include reptile removal, but we know who to contact to help those creatures find a new home! On a serious note, we are happy to provide whatever help we can to make this difficult construction time easier for you.
And now for some tough news
In our quarterly board meeting last Friday, our board treasurer, Tina Slater, gave an update on our bank balance. We always say that we operate on a bare bones budget, but as Tina said in her report to the Board of Directors, “This is a little too bare, and we need a little meat on the bones if we are to continue accomplishing all we need to do.”
Currently, Purple Line NOW is operating with a remaining balance of less than $3,000. Folks are always surprised that when we say “bare bones budget” we actually mean it! But, even with Halloween in our rear-view mirror, that balance is a bit scary.
As we do every year at this time, we ask you to renew or increase your annual giving to us. If you have never given before, we appreciate your consideration of any amount – it all matters. It all counts.
If you have been a loyal donor, please know that we squeeze every cent out of your donation to us and when we say we can’t do it without you, we truly mean it.
Here’s what we would like to accomplish in the next year
Because of the increased attendance at our forums since we went to a virtual format, we think that format may be here to stay! But, we want to do more of them, targeting communities that the Purple Line will impact, and address those hot topics you most want to hear about.
We would like to refresh our newsletter so it is easier to read and easier to share.
Additionally, many of you have told us you use our website as a resource. We need to update the information contained within it and address some of your requests in doing so.
Finally, we will continue to meet as a board and team. We will continue to be an advocate for the project and for the citizens who are affected by construction and continue our role as a champion for making the Purple Line the best it can be.
And now --- the SUPER exciting news!
As you consider helping us move into the new year on more comfortable financial footing, we are thrilled to let you know that last week, an anonymous donor has stepped forward again (how lucky are we?!) with an offer to match all gifts, dollar for dollar -- $25 up to $1,000 -- until the goal of $5,000 is reached!
(For example, if you give a gift of $25, your donation will count as $50. If you give $1,000, your donation will count as $2,000. Any and all donations are welcome, small and large.)
This year, because our need is immediate, the matching campaign will last until the stroke of midnight, December 31, so we hope you will include us in your holiday giving.
Thank you for your consideration. We know it has been a tough year for a lot of people. If you can contribute at this time, please know how much we appreciate your generosity, and if you cannot, know that we will continue to bring you as much news and information as we can. Feel free to share this newsletter with your neighbors and friends who might benefit from staying in the loop.
THE PURPLE LINE IN THE NEWS
New contractors picked to restart Maryland’s Purple Line (WTOP, The Associated Press, November 5, 2021)
Arnold Elevated to MDOT MTA Administrator (M. Luczak, Railway Age, November 16, 2021)
FEATURES & HIGHLIGHTS
Congratulations to Holly Arnold
Purple Line NOW extends a warm welcome and congratulations to Holly Arnold who was named the new administrator of the Maryland Department of Transportation MTA. Arnold has been serving as the acting administrator since early summer and she brings a wealth of experience with her from within the agency.
Maryland Department of Transportation Program Presentation to Montgomery County Delegation
We bring you some highlights from the Maryland Department of Transportation presentation (familiarly known as the annual “roadshow”) which occurs in both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, respectively, each year. For this edition of Purple Line NOW News, we’ll focus on the November 10, 2021 Montgomery County briefing which you can view in its entirety here. For our next newsletter, we’ll bring you Prince George’s County’s briefing which has yet to be posted as of publication time.
Gregory Slater, Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation, gave an overview on all major transportation projects throughout the state to representatives from the Montgomery County delegation. For our purposes here, we’ll focus this update solely on what was reported in regard to the Purple Line.
Secretary Slater provided an update of where the project stands now, in the aftermath of the announcement of the new Design-Build partner, and answered questions that arose from members of the delegation.
Again, if you would like to view the full presentation and hear all of the questions asked, you can find them at the link above.
Secretary Slater acknowledged that there have been significant challenges over the past two years. To counter some of the challenges the project faced when the former Purple Line Design-Build partner left, the state moved quickly to acquire and provide oversight for over 150 contracts so that they could keep the project moving while the concessionaire, Purple Line Transit Partners, moved aggressively to name a new Design-Build partner. As you may have read in our breaking news blast two weeks ago, the selected company is Maryland Transit Solutions (which is a joint venture between Dragados USA and OHL USA).
During that time, the state continued to move underground and overhead utilities that Mr. Slater noted were critical for progress. They also moved to advance the production of railcars, which included procuring “additional railcars so that they are prepared to offer a high level of service when the Purple Line opens.” They also have continued progress on completing the Operations and Maintenance Facility (OMF) which is critical to have in place so the railcars can be brought over to start the testing phase. Finally, they obtained all final approvals for storm water permits which, Secretary Slater said, “was a challenging piece of the process of the past two years.”
The state is still finalizing the details of the contract, but they will be taking it to the Board of Public Works in the coming weeks with an updated P3 agreement which will include costs and schedule. He noted that they expect to see some increases in costs on the Purple Line as they have on all their major projects across the state. Timelines have increased and materials costs are up, along with some labor shortages. “These issues have affected the entire industry in this post-pandemic world – it is a different reality than we had in 2016.”
With that, Secretary Slater opened it up to the rest of the delegation for comments and updates from their respective districts and answered questions as the presentations went along.
Montgomery County Council President Tom Hucker asked if the state would commit to using local contractors on the new contract wherever and whenever possible. He said that he has been hearing some concerns from local contractors that they were afraid they were being shut out of the project.
Mr. Slater said that the state is “100% committed” to using local contractors whenever possible. He said the state didn’t have the resources to use them all while construction slowed down in the wake of the former builder’s leaving – not all of the contractors were active, but he agreed using local contractors was a critical part of the project.
Mr. Hucker suggested the state coordinate a meet and greet with local companies and the new builder. Secretary Slater said they would help facilitate something of that nature as soon as things were finalized.
Delegate David Moon (D20) requested that construction impacts be communicated as quickly, clearly, and regularly as possible, especially to businesses around future closures. Moon continued, “we’d like to head off complaints from the get-go with temporary mitigation signage, striping curbs, etc. to maintain pedestrian access.”
Secretary Slater posed a suggestion to the assembled group, “as we are getting for the Purple Line to gear back up, looking at stakeholder groups, business groups – it might be helpful to think about creating a business-focused round table group that meets regularly” to address these types of issues.
Delegate Jared Solomon added that he would hope that as we begin significant construction in the spring, we can look at building out sidewalk infrastructure at Purple Line stations, especially since some of those stations do not have parking and we will want to encourage as many pedestrians to walk or bike to the stations as possible. Delegate Solomon added he would also encourage quick progress on the Talbot Avenue Bridge “to get those communities connected as quickly as possible.”
Relevant to the point raised by Del. Solomon, the Montgomery Planning Board's top 100 capital program priorities, released October 21, included four projects relating to Purple Line pedestrian aspect:
#4 Capital Crescent Trail Breezeway
#18 Takoma/Langley Crossroads
See our recent newsletter for more details on the Capital Crescent Trail Wisconsin Avenue crossing, which is still in need of funding for the tunnel portion.
We will bring you the briefing from the State to the Prince George’s delegation as soon as it is available.
Photos from Around the Corridor
Purple Line NOW would like to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to the hardworking Purple Line crews! Thanks as well to MDOT MTA for these terrific photos.