Purple Line Paves Way for Environmental Debate

Critics say line will hurt; others disagree.


Nora Levy-Forsythe jogs the Bethesda segment of a 13-mile nature trail that links Georgetown to Silver Spring almost every day when home from college.

to plow through several miles of the , Levy-Forsythe said she would give up this oasis of nature.

And it’s not just the trail—19 acres of forest and more than 5,000 feet of streams may be demolished when the Purple Line is built, according to environmental impact documents the Maryland Transit Administration drafted in 2008.

“I’m totally for more public transportation,” Levy-Forsythe said. “If it means less SUVs in this neighborhood, less big cars, less any cars really, I’m fine with it.”

MTA officials insist the light rail will improve air quality by. Purple Line Project Manager Michael Madden said the environmental impact documents are outdated and that the MTA will release the final version next spring.

The MTA—backed by the Environmental Protection Agency—plans to begin construction of the line in 2015.

Critics such as Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail President Ajay Bhatt said the anticipated development that will spring up around Purple Line stations will increase the already debilitating traffic congestion.

“The amount of traffic that comes in and out of D.C. every day is tremendous,” Bhatt said. “It’s backed up from Chevy Chase Circle, passed the Beltway, into Kensington and if you put a large commercial district in here, the traffic is going to be that much worse.”

However, MTA says the light rail line, which will run through Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, will have little impact on the already urbanized environment. According to Madden, teams of engineers, environmental planners and the like have actively attempted to minimize any adverse effects.  

The report also projects that the change in air pollution from the Purple Line will amount to less than a half of a percent.

“It is a challenge,” Madden said. “There are several parts that we impact, but from a very minor standpoint. We’ve made every effort we can to revise the alignment to minimize any impact we can.”

As for Levy-Forsythe, she’ll continue jogging on the trail until construction begins for a project she says is a much-needed improvement.

“[To] make these streets more accessible for bikes, put in more public transportation, all of that,” she said, “I would give up this place to run.”

For more on the Purple Line, check out our series.

Do you think the Purple Line will hurt the environment? 

jag May 16, 2012 at 06:18 PM
L Will, that's why the county has proposed BRT for all of those corridors you mention. I wouldn't be surprised if the county's BRT system (at least phase 1) gets funded before the PL.
L Will May 16, 2012 at 06:20 PM
The sad, completely unreported truth about the PL is that it will not take many cars off the road because most of the estimated riders are already riding metro. They would just switch to the PL. Mike Madden said that himself over a year ago. Now he is saying that bulldozing 17 acres of mature trees inside the beltway and hardscaping the area will only result in a 1/2 percent increase in air pollution and have only minor and little impact? I don't like to call someone a liar or manipulative, but this issue is too important not to apply those labels to Mike Madden and MTA.
L Will May 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM
What about the hundreds of residents who live along the proposed Purple line, many within the 40 feet from the right of way. At 40 feet, you will hear and feel noise and vibrations. What about their quality of life and property values? A couple of nights ago, an MTA official said the PL will not affect home prices. This is not true. Check out this listing for 7905 Kentbury Dr, Bethesda. This is a highly desirable area, with many new homes like it selling well. This house went into foreclosure because no one would touch it because of the PL. Check out the mention of the PL in the description under the photo. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7905-Kentbury-Dr-Bethesda-MD-20814/37179213_zpid/
Leslie Brownrigg May 19, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Join the Takoma Park - Langley Park "walk" on Saturday June 26, 2012 from 2 -6 pm along the proposed Purple Line route from Piney Branch x Flower Avenue to University Blvd x Riggs followed by a rally and press conference at the CASA Langley-McCormick Mansion supporting the Purple Line BUT opposing displacements of residents and businesses in the current plan -- Event sponsored by the Coalition for Fair Development. Banners and signs voicing whatever opinion on the Purple Line plan are welcome.
Zac May 31, 2012 at 03:58 PM
There is one thing that every "anti-PL" poster has a forgot on here; the CCT has railbanking to thank for its existence. CSX can come in there anytime that it wants and place a freight line in there again. What should have happened after the line was initially abandoned is that it should have been converted into light rail. Based on today's population numbers, the line would have been a success. And let's not forget that on some light rail systems elsewhere, they use grass tracks. They could use that on the PL. They're currently putting grass tracks on sections of the Baltimore Light Rail line: http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=3296


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