Purple Line Update

Many of you have noticed that work got underway on constructing the county’s biggest transportation project in decades: the Purple Line.

While I wholeheartedly support the 16.5-mile light rail line that will link Bethesda and New Carrollton and run through downtown Silver Spring, I know the project got off to a rocky start.

With less than a week’s notice to the public, the Georgetown Branch Trail was closed —  and on the first day of school, which inconvenienced parents and students. The state contract called for 30 days’ notice on closing the trail, but unbeknownst to the public — and the council — the state had waived that requirement.

Any infrastructure project of the magnitude of the Purple Line is going to cause some major disruptions, but it’s the state’s job to make sure those disruptions are as minimized as possible.

For example, I have been meeting with downtown Silver Spring merchants, especially on Bonifant St., who are concerned that the Purple Line work — along with ongoing utility repairs — will hurt their business.

Among the actions we’re taking:

  • Working with county officials to increase the number of short-term parking spaces in the Bonifant Street parking lot and Wayne Avenue garage to help these merchants.
  • Looking into other steps to mitigate the impact on businesses and residents, including support for state legislation that would offer financial assistance to affected businesses.
  • Requesting state transit officials to ensure utilities — if they absolutely must be shut down on a weekend day — are shut down on Sundays, not Saturdays. Likewise for the Purple Line construction.

It’s also our job to make sure the state and Purple Line Transit Partners — the private consortium of companies building the project — are as transparent as possible and communicate often and clearly with the public.

Toward that end, the County Council recently questioned state and company officials, impressing on them the vital importance of keeping the public frequently updated on construction activities and their impact on our communities. These include blasting schedules, tree-cutting, road closures and detours, so people can plan their daily lives around this project.

Consortium officials have promised to post these updates and upcoming meetings with the local Community Advisory Teams on its website, purplelinemd.com, where you can also sign up for email or text notifications. Also, a construction hotline has been set up at  240-424-5325.

The County Council plans to have regular meetings with the state and consortium officials, and I plan to hold them accountable as the project proceeds.

My staff and I have also been working on several other important transportation initiatives in our district we will provide a more in-depth update about soon:

  • New, express Ride-On Bus service on U.S. 29, expected to start in January.
  • New protected bike lanes in Silver Spring.
  • Improvements to Georgia Avenue to make the busy stretch between 16th Street and Forest Glen Road more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, safer for motorists, and more welcoming for the Montgomery Hills businesses and residents nearby. It’s all part of the area’s sector plan.
  • Improvements to U.S. 29 to make it more pedestrian-friendly. Last month’s tragic pedestrian fatality only highlighted how dangerous this roadway can be.