COLLEGE PARK – The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT) and Purple Line Transit Partners on Oct. 4 hosted the second of two open houses regarding the project this week.
One being held at the University of Maryland Adele H. Stamp Student Union Atrium with mock-ups and a lengthy map illustrating the path of the system along with representatives eager to discuss its progress.
Easels held renderings of the stops near the area, plus an outline of the full connection overlaid on the Metro map.
The 16-mile light rail will have 21 stations from Bethesda to New Carrollton, with links to the Red, Orange and Green Metro lines. The Purple Line will operate mainly on roadways, in dedicated lanes or in mixed traffic, according to Purple Line Transit Partners documentation.
Construction began on the project last August but was delayed by a lawsuit regarding Metro ridership until a little over a month ago, even though the case was dismissed in December 2017.
Despite the time off, Purple Line officials are still aiming for completion in 2022, though in the fall instead of the original spring target.
“We’re still planning on carrying our first passengers in fall of 2022,” said Purple Line Transit Partners Communications Director John Undeland. “The next four years are gonna be a lot more active than this first year.”
Prince George’s County residents have not been affected by construction so far, as most of the work has been done in Montgomery County up to this point, but shovels hit the dirt at UMD about a month ago.
One lane of Campus Drive, which virtually splits the campus down the middle stretching from Route 1 to Adelphi Road, was closed to make room for work to take place on the project. Students, faculty and residents should get used to this situation.
“We’ve got construction in a lot of different locations and it’s just going to intensify,” Undeland said. “Our message to the public is to get ready. This is going to have impacts, and you are going to run into lane closures, there’s going to be inconveniences, there will be more orange barrels out there, just be ready for it.”
Several factors have contributed to the plodding progression of the project, said Undeland, from narrow spaces to wildlife and forestry restrictions. The director likened building the Purple Line to replacing floorboards during a house party, working on one side while pushing everyone to the other, and then vice versa.
The overhead power system necessitates the removal of plant life for safety reasons, which will mean cutting down around 42 acres of trees along the corridor. P.G. County will receive 43 acres of trees to mitigate the impact, but only about 13 acres along the alignment. The tree removal was delayed by migratory bird restrictions that prohibited the action from April through August, a further hindrance to the process.
The open house drew a few residents, but the most common attendees were UMD students in fields relating to the project. There were a handful of architecture students along with a broad swath of future community planners, who peppered Purple Line staff with queries about every inch of the project.
“The graphics are nice. However you can tell two different people did the graphic versus the map,” noted Elena G., a graduate student in Community Planning who declined to give her full last name. “The maps are actually upside down compared to the pictures.”
Elena’s class is studying the Takoma-Langley Purple Line stop, specifically the effect it will have on minority-owned businesses in the area. Purple Line officials are prepared to provide signage for local businesses that may be affected by construction, along with coupons to workers for use at those establishments, but the planning group wasn’t sure that would be enough. Elena mentioned grant money was given to businesses in Montgomery County, though not in P.G. at this time.
Lan Tsubata Lee is vice president of the West Lanham Hills Citizens’ Association, where residents are divided about the project.
She explained the neighborhood has been around since 1939 and still has some of its original residents, who aren’t exactly thrilled about such a significant change in the area. Tsubata said the residents are concerned about the efficacy of the project since so far it’s been “a lot of work for a lot of reward that many can’t see at the moment.”
Despite those doubts, she said she wasn’t rooting against the project, just making sure it will be beneficial to the neighborhood.
“I do hope it does [work out], I want it to be successful,” Tsubata said. “At the same time, it has to serve our community.”