On Friday, the state transit administration dropped early details on how the Purple Line would impact people, cars and nature. The full scoop — all 37 MB of it — is on the mass-transit project’s website, and on file at the Silver Spring public library.

But what many want to know is: How far away is the project from rolling, if it rolls at all?

“If all the funding is available, we can start construction in 2012,” project manager Mike Madden told Silver Spring’s urban-district advisory committee Thursday.

So far, a $25 million slice out of the Purple Line’s design budget won’t do too much damage, because the project isn’t in the design phase yet, Madden added. It’s gotta jump through a few more hoops before it gets to that point, according to a 32-page executive summary of the project’s draft environmental-impact study.

First, the transit administration will hold public hearings to feel out the public’s reaction to the study data. Silver Spring is on the tail end of those meetings, with the very last gig dropping on Nov 22 at Montgomery College. Can’t make it to the meeting? You have until mid January 2009 to drop the transit administration a line.

Once the data and public comments are digested, the state transportation department will declare the type of ride — bus rapid transit, light rail or nothing — and the route. (People in MoCo and PG counties are leaning towards light rail from Bethesda to New Carrollton, Madden said.) The state also could weigh the Purple Line’s schedule with those of two other mass-transit projects — the Corridor Cities Transitway, and Baltimore’s Red Line — to determine which gets worked on first.

Sometime next spring, the state will holler at the Federal Transit Administration, which will decide whether the Purple Line is worthy of an engineering study. If it is, expect people in hard hats on the streets of Silver Spring with their TomToms and survey gear.

Their data should point the Purple Line route in the right direction, whether that’s down Wayne Avenue, deep beneath Thayer and Silver Spring Avenues, or nowhere at all. The public will get its shot at picking apart engineering results before the feds approve or reject its slice of the project’s tab.

“All of our options meet the [fed’s] cost-effectiveness index,” Madden said. “We’re staying on schedule.”

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13 Responses to “So you’ve got preliminary Purple Line data. Now what?”

  1. Willard says:

    This can’t happen soon enough.
    I know it’s complicated and there are lots of things to figure out, but 4 years to begin construction seems a bit much to me.

  2. Thayer-D says:

    Ditto to Willard. Build it right the first time and it will pay dividends to future generations. Goooooo Silver Spring!!!!

  3. LuvMyHood says:

    Improving the existing transportation system should have been MTA’s starting point. The Transportation System Management (TSM) alternative is NOT a no-build option. It would mean more bus service, among other things. But it was given short shrift. The real estate developers who seek rail for its rezoning potential, and the politicians who enable them, want to build a railroad through our small-scale communities. Rail means removal of small things — little houses with porches, small apartment buildings — and replacement with the big and expensive. And still more wires up in the air to mess with our remaining tree canopy. The electicity on those wires would come from coal. Gimme more of those nice, new low-riding diesel/hybrid buses any day.

  4. Thanks for your comments, LuvMyHood. You wrote:

    “The real estate developers who seek rail for its rezoning potential, and the politicians who enable them, want to build a railroad through our small-scale communities.”

    I’m no developer or politician, but I do want a Purple Line.

  5. AH says:

    Ditto Jennifer.

  6. IHateYuppies says:

    I always favored a tunnel for the Purple Line but that means the Feds, the state of Maryland, and Montgomery County taxpayers would have to cough up at least $3-5 billion for this project.

  7. John Curran says:

    Here’s the concern I have about the Purple Line:
    The “high-investment” light rail vehicle (LRV) that’s highlighted in the draft environmental impact report looks and sounds an awful lot like the “new” light rail cars that Boston’s MBTA ordered for the Green Line. Those cars have been nothing but a headache for the city! The manufacturer, Breda (which produced very similar cars for San Francisco), delayed delivery for almost 10 years! Shortly after the fleet was finally put in service, a series of derailments led to the discovery of severe brake problems. They had to be taken out of service again for several years.

    I’m not against the high-investment LRV option — in fact, I’d prefer it — but WMATA should learn from Boston’s Green Line catastrophes and proceed with caution when considering any light-rail vehicles, especially from Breda.

  8. LuvMyHood says:

    Jennifer, I appreciate your candor. I do hope you will continue to cover this thing thoroughly. It may look like it has been studied for years, and is also years away. But appearances can be deceiving. This area’s public hearing is only a month away, and the folks who live around here have thousands of pages to go through and analyze before then. I expect votes in rapid succession from planning board and the county council. Then the push to change what is on the land near stations will start. That push will begin in earnest this winter, well ahead of any trackbed construction.

  9. Thayer-D says:

    The reason the market goes up around transit is because people love public transit options versus getting stuck in traffic. So I wish we could move on from transit being only a vehicle for developers to profit. The reason they profit is because people want it, people who luv their hood as much as anyone else.
    And…if the problem is road traffic, how on earth is putting more buses on those already congested roads going to improve anything?

  10. LuvMyHood says:

    Thayer-D, there are plenty of empty storefronts near Metro stations. In Bethesda, the area that used to contain a food court has been empty for years. One of the benches at the bus stop has been missing a piece of wood for as long as I can remember. And that building is ON TOP of the Metro station. When it comes to retail, people are spending $ on stuff they really need, like dry cleaning. Not necessarily new clothing or jewelry or whatever people buy in shops. Olsson’s Books & Records has had stores very close to Metro stops, and it just closed. The high rents can wipe out the transit advantage. Of course, the Olsson’s in Bethesda was in a building that was demolished for — a high-end condo. There is retail in the new condo building. A bank.

  11. Thayer-D says:

    LuvMyHood. I know what you are getting at and I don’t want to see the kind of stores I use pushed out for high end retail I can’t afford either. I’m just saying there are certain market place realities that exist whether one likes them or not, and that shouldn’t deter us from doing what most thinking people assume will be for the greater good. As for those empty store fronts at metro stops, if the developers are being too greedy, just wait for them to bleed themselves back to reality and get someone who can afford those rents.

  12. Woodside Park Bob says:

    The Purple Line needs to be underground through downtown Silver Spring. Otherwise it will only add to the existing congestion and neither the trains nor truck or automobile traffic will be able to move efficiently. Building it on the surface will only cause more problems than it will solve. Let’s build it, but build it right!

  13. LuvMyHood says:

    Thayer-D, you put too much faith in markets. And please remember 2 underlying problems: the county relies too much upon the property tax. The tax base should be more progressive, and more geared toward capital gains and high incomes. Second, any market needs good laws and regulations. And our zoning law is a mess. It is being dinged by one zoning text amendment (ZTA) after another. I expect Park & Planning to do a “sector plan” around each stop for the Purple Line. I expect this sector plan process to start as soon as a PL route gets some level of approval, which means the sector planning would start next year. That would pressure the small businesses we all love, as well as the small apt. houses, and the detached houses.

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