Along Purple Line route, property owners in Chevy Chase joust for adjustments -- Gazette.Net


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Looks like the squeaky wheel gets the grease when it comes to the Purple Line.

In Chevy Chase, the Columbia Country Club has persuaded the state to shift the Purple Line’s proposed route to protect its golf course. In Lyttonsville, residents scored a victory when a Purple Line maintenance and rail yard facility was relocated away from a residential area.

And now the Town of Chevy Chase wants to see its wishes incorporated into the proposed $2.2 billion light rail’s plans. To that effect, the board has allocated $25,000 to hire Sam Schwartz Engineering to analyze the voluminous environmental Purple Line impact study, released by the Maryland Transit Administration this September.

The same company had done similar work analyzing reports for the town in the past.

The town wants an at-grade crossing on Lynn Drive, where many Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students cross the Capital Crescent Trail.

The plans now offer two possibilities of raising the train over the trail to create a pedestrian underpass. It would mean taking private property from homeowners on Lynn Drive.

“None of the alternatives are workable or acceptable,” said town Councilman David Lublin at a Sept. 11 meeting.

About 232 people cross the trail every day, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Initially, the MTA’s conceptual design included an at-grade crossing. It was to be the only at-grade pedestrian crossing on the Purple Line between Bethesda and Lyttonsville that was not at a light rail station.

The idea was dropped after the state cited safety reasons, according to documents.

A pedestrian overpass was also ruled out because it could not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. State engineers nixed a pedestrian tunnel over flooding fears.

The town hopes that the analysis will be complete in time for it to submit comments about the environmental impact study before the MTA’s Oct. 21 deadline, said John Bickerman, a town council member.

Other requests are likely now that the environmental impact study has been released, said Joy Nurmi, special assistant to the county executive.

“Lyttonsville and the country club were early exceptions, because they were known,” Nurmi said.

She added that the county was happy and willing to “put together a team to help people” navigate the system. The proposed Purple Line route is “not cast in stone,” she said.

The country club’s agreement, signed by the Maryland Transit Administration and Montgomery County, called for the shift in the tracks in exchange for the club halting all opposition to the Purple Line, including filing or funding lawsuits. The club also got the the transit authority and county to agree to meet with them at least every three months. The arrangement was made public because of a request under public records law filed by The Washington Post.

But in a letter written on Sept. 30 to County Executive Isiah Leggett, Council members Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda and Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park expressed dissatisfaction with only learning of the agreement with the country club through the media.

They urged Leggett to make clear that the arrangement with the country club was in the public interest and did not reflect any preferential treatment.

“We believe it is important for you to state unequivocally that the full weight of the County, and your office in particular, stands ready to assist communities along the full length of the Purple Line alignment to minimize adverse impacts,” Berliner and Ervin wrote in the letter.

In response, Leggett (D) wrote a letter dated the same day that the Columbia Country Club was not the only place where property owners’s wishes have been accommodated.

He cited the Lyttonsville Community Civic Association’s victory earlier this year in convincing Purple Line planners to move a rail yard facility.

In a letter to the county executive, Charlotte A. Coffield, the president of the civic association, thanked Leggett and his staff for their help.

“I wish you could have been there to witness the smiles, high fives and hugs,” Coffield wrote. “We look forward to continuing to work with MTA as the Purple Line project progresses in our area.”



ablum@gazette.net