At the board’s monthly meeting in Lyttonsville, members agreed to draft a letter supporting development of the mass-transit project between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The letter, they said, could give the project a lift when it competes for federal funding.
However, members disagreed on how much emphasis the letter should place on tunneling beneath the downtown area and under Wayne Avenue. While some wanted to lean hard for the sake of neighborhood concerns, others didn’t want to antagonize the process.
“We need to be very clear that we support the Purple Line,” member Marc Woodard, of Sligo Hills, told his colleagues. “But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Currently, tunneling is not an option on the state transit administration‘s plate. Chalk that up to the guesstimated steep price tag. But according to board member and East Silver Spring resident Debbie Spielberg, data do exist that support a tunnel’s cost effectiveness.
“If you tunnel under Wayne Avenue, you pick up ridership numbers,” Spielberg told board members. That’s because an off-road ride wouldn’t have to sit in automobile traffic, and thus would have greater appeal to more riders, she explained.
The letter’s heavy emphasis on tunneling also could go a long way to rinse the bad taste out of some residents’ mouths. Board member Alan Bowser accused the state transit administration of not being straight up with people living in impacted neighborhoods.
“We deserved more information than they gave us,” Bowser, a Park Hills resident, said. “It didn’t seem like the transit administration’s report was objective.”
And pleas for a tunnel weren’t just NIMBY ravings either, Spielberg suggested. They were about preserving the downtown area’s urban renewal.
“The people who support the tunnel are the same people who raised a red flag over the mega-mall,” she said, referring to an earlier concept to drop the massive Mall of America and a wave pool onto Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive. “These people understand nuance.”
Still, other board members didn’t want fist pounding for a tunnel to translate into a death blow for the Purple Line. After all, if the feds catch a whiff of discontent among area residents, they could decide against funding, board member Victor Weissberg, of Montgomery Hills, said.
Instead, the board’s letter should recommend tunneling “to the extent that it’s feasible”, one faction suggested. Translation: If tunneling happens, it happens. And if not, no big whoop.
“I’d rather see the Purple Line built and understand that we all have to sacrifice, than not build it at all,” board member and East Silver Springer Kathy Stevens said.
A draft letter will be put to the vote when the board convenes again on Jan 12, 2009.
Photo of a Metro tunnel courtesy of Flickr user Chrisbb@prodigy.net.