Silver Spring neighbors object to ‘fake house’ plan for Purple Line substation -- Gazette.Net


A proposal to disguise a power-converting substation for the Purple Line as a house isn’t fooling residents of the Seven Oaks Evanswood community.

Maryland Transit Administration plans to build a power-converting substation for the Purple Line rail system on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Cloverfield Road. The facility would be 50 feet by 14 feet, but transit officials said surrounding it by trees, and a wooden fence would blend the substation into the neighborhood, making it look like just another home.

But residents of the area are concerned about the constant noise, and the potential lack of maintenance on such large unoccupied stand-alone structure called by many a “fake house.”

“That’s like the simple and least complicated way to hide [it],” said Anne Edwards, who lives a few doors down from the proposed Wayne Avenue substation. She said the area is saturated with single-family houses, a middle school and a senior living community.

The Evanswood Citizens’ Association sent a letter to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin and the manager of the Purple Line project, Michael Madden, in early June saying they “voted unanimously” to object to the Purple Line electrical transformer anywhere above ground in their “overwhelmingly single-family residential neighborhoods, no matter how its facade might be disguised.” The group requested that the substation be buried underground or move to another location.

“It is like an industrial installation,” Edwards said. She said she is worried about the size, potential crime- since it is going to be an unoccupied space, constant noise and regular maintenance tasks such as trash pick-up, overgrown grass, and trimming trees.

Transit planners said the space will be maintained on a regular basis by state contractors and noise will be minimal.

“Less than a noise of an air conditioner. ... We don’t believe noise is an issue,” said Madden.

There are 20 proposed traction power substations that will provide power along the Purple Line. These structures will have an enclosed metal compartment without any exposed electrical parts. According to officials, other residential and commercial areas such as Montgomery Avenue in Bethesda, Lyttonsville near the edge of the Ride On facility and wooded area east of Stewart Avenue, and the corner of Flower Avenue and Arliss Street are also being considered for the power-converting substation, and the disguise for each will be determined once officials are further along in their analyses.

Madden said he did not know about the Evanswood letter, but is aware of the residents’ wishes for the substation to be buried or reduced in size.

“That’s ongoing; we don’t have an answer for these two requests at this point,” Madden said.

The Purple line is a $2.2 billion light rail project that will cross 16 miles to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton, passing through many communities along the way.

According to Madden, the Wayne Avenue substation, between Cloverfield Road and Greenbrier Drive, is the best location for safety and operations.

“Most of the property is owned by the county... [and] you need a certain amount of space and there is a good amount of space at this location,” Madden said.

He explained the underground option is more expensive, but he could not say how much the state would spend since the MTA is still analyzing all possibilities.

Edwards disagrees.

“All things are possible. ... It is what you are willing to put in,” she said “MTA has some very smart engineers...[and] we know they can bury. It is physically possible,” she said, adding “We think we are worth it and we hope the governor does, too.”

The community believes officials can find a better solution.

“It is going to be larger than the single family homes,” said Jean Cavanaugh, president of the Seven Oaks Evanswood Citizens’ Association, adding that it is not an unreasonable request to bury it. “This is really a small thing to ask.”