Maryland Transit Administration officials on Tuesday unveiled new renderings for the Bethesda station on the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail planned to connect Bethesda with New Carrollton. The new designs include a five to seven foot sidewalk alongside the light rail through the Wisconsin Avenue tunnel.
The sidewalk option was developed after Montgomery County Council members determined it would be too expensive and too risky to route the Capital Crescent Trail above the light rail inside the tunnel. Instead, council members chose to support an option to route the trail at grade across Wisconsin Avenue.
“I know it’s a disappointment to people but I think the sidewalk at least gives them an option,” said Mike Madden, MTA Purple Line project manager. “If you want to get from one side to the other, you have an option rather than going across Wisconsin Avenue at grade.”
Pedestrians will be able to walk through the tunnel or walk a bike, but the sidewalk would not be wide enough for cyclists to ride through, Madden said.
Bethesda's Purple Line station is planned to be constructed in conjunction with a new south entrance to Bethesda's Red Line Metro station at Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street. The new entrance would add a total of six high-speed elevators between the street level, the planned Bethesda station on the Purple Line below ground, and a mezzanine to access the Red Line Metro station, about 100 feet below ground.
“It will be very popular,” Madden said. “Being able to go from the Purple Line to the Metro line, doing it all inside, very conveniently and quickly, I think that’s a big bonus.”
Montgomery County is funding a project to re-build a portion of the Capital Crescent Trail alongside the light rail line. The Purple Line project has been hotly contested by some trail advocates.
Madden said the MTA aimed to make the Bethesda station safe and inviting, with a design that will distinguish it from Metro. Purple Line stations will be developed with art concepts that are unique to the neighborhoods where the stations are located, drawing on community input, Madden said.
“What we’re doing here is designing a much more inviting space than it is today,” Madden said. “It’s under two buildings, it’s under Wisconsin Avenue, it’s a very constrained and difficult place to have a light rail line and station, so we’re making every effort we can to make it well lit, safe, attractive, and a place where people will be comfortable waiting for a train.”
The station would be equipped with signs indicating when the next train will arrive, ticket booths and a closed-circuit security television system, Madden said. Riders would not need to pass through a gate to board the train, Madden said – rather, MTA officials would patrol trains and stations to ask riders for their ticket.
Trains are planned to arrive every six minutes during peak travel times and 10-12 minutes during off-peak periods.
Final design on the project is slated to launch in the fall of 2013, with construction beginning in 2015 and the line opening in 2020. But along with some other transportation projects in Maryland, the Purple Line is facing funding challenges, and officials are looking into ways to secure transportation dollars for the project.
The cost estimate jumped recently to $2.15 billion, which Madden said was a cost estimate based on advanced engineering rather than conceptual planning.