Pointing to her Chevy Chase house on a satellite photo, Ella Kaszubski traced her finger along where the proposed Purple Line would run right behind it, alongside the Capital Crescent Trail.
“I use the trail everyday,” Kaszubski said. “I want to keep that access.”
That access would be gone if the Maryland Transit Administration’s plans for the $2.2 billion light rail go through as outlined at an open house held in the cafeteria of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on Tuesday. About 25 MTA representatives were on hand to answer questions about the line, which would run from downtown Bethesda, through Silver Spring and end in New Carrollton. Tuesday’s event was the fourth of its kind; the last is scheduled for tonight in Hyattsville.
In the MTA plan, a retaining wall or noise wall at least four feet tall would run along the properties that back up to what is now the Capital Crescent Trail, cutting off access from those yards. Access points would be limited to breaks in the walls. In Kaszubski’s neighborhood that would be at Sleaford Road and Kentbury Way.
But access points to the trail are only one of the many issues some locals are raising.
“There’s going to be train going through my backyard,” said Kaszubski, who has been protesting the Purple Line for five years. “It’s going to be a war zone.”
Kaszubski was referring to the massive construction that will need to take place to build the 16-mile system in time for a 2020 opening.
“Most properties are going to be affected,” said Francis Winterwerp, one of the MTA representatives on hand.
Property owners could lose as little as one foot or more than 40 feet to the project if it was deemed necessary for construction of the track and the 12-foot-wide path that would run alongside it.
Several buildings in the Falklands Chase apartment complex in Silver Spring are slated to be torn down, Winterwerp said, as well as a shopping center on 16th Street.
The MTA will start by negotiating with private property owners to compensate for the loss of their land, said Nick Kern, another MTA representative, but if property owners refuse to sell their land, the state will “start eminent domain action.”
Berel Gamerman has lived in the Riviera, a high-rise building that overlooks East West Highway, since 1979 and said he has watched the green areas around his apartment building slowly disappear, thanks to one construction project after another.
“They are going to take our last grassy strip and turn it into asphalt,” Gamerman said, who added that he is worried about the noise and the vibrations that are sure to come with a train zooming by his building several times a day. Of the Purple Line, he said, “We hate it. It should go up Jones Bridge Road. But we don’t have any political clout.”
Newly-elected Town of Chevy Chase Councilman John Bickerman called the proposed Purple Line “misguided and not thought through,” and questioned whether it was really more cost-effective than creating dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lanes between Silver Spring and Bethesda, the leg of the line that is expected to get the heaviest use.
MTA estimates that there will be 74,000 daily trips between the two stations once the Purple Line is fully operational and a ride between the two will take about 9 minutes.
Whether that vision is ever brought to life depends a lot on finding the $2.2 billion needed to build it.
The MTA will have enough money, about half of the $2.2 billion, to finish designing and obtaining the rights-of-way, said Mike Madden, the Purple Line project manager, thanks to new state transportation funding from the recently passed gas tax. The other $ 1.2 billion will have to come from the federal government, Madden said.
The MTA has not ruled out turning to the county for money, said Greg Benz, representing MTA, adding that federal “funding will be affected by sequestration, but we won’t be looking for funds until 2015.”
Until then, Kaszubski and others who oppose the way the line is being built, said they will not give up the fight.