Purple Line: Here’s What’s Coming

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While in the end things will (hopefully*) work out for the Purple Line, it’s a long way from here to there, particularly for residential neighborhoods in Silver Spring and also in Prince George’s County. Katherine Shaver in the Post has a preview based on experiences with similar work now finishing up in Charlotte. Read the whole thing, etc., but here’s a couple of headlines.

Construction of the 9.3 mile LYNX Blue Line extension in Charlotte offers the Washington region a look at what to expect when major construction begins on the light-rail Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

One of light rail’s main selling points — its ability to thread trains through densely developed and populated areas by using local roads — also makes its construction particularly disruptive. If Charlotte’s experience is any guide, construction of the Washington region’s first light-rail line will look and feel more like a massive road project that will hamstring some of the area’s busiest streets. The Purple Line work is expected to occur over six years.

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Looking to Charlotte, the Washington suburbs can expect traffic to quickly jam up behind lane-closure bottlenecks and nearby roads and neighborhoods to clog with more traffic as motorists try to avoid the mess. Flying dirt coating nearby buildings, homes and cars will probably be a bigger complaint than noise, and some small businesses along the route will struggle to survive.

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A dozen major roads, including north-south roads that will cross the east-west rail line, are slated for “long-term” lane closures, which contract documents define only as “longer than a work day, overnight period or a weekend.”

Those include parts of Colesville Road, 16th Street and Bonifant Street near downtown Silver Spring, Elm Street in downtown Bethesda, and Wayne Avenue and Arliss Street east of downtown Silver Spring. Paint Branch Parkway near U-Md. may be closed completely during nights and weekends, except for access to the College Park Metro station and on days of home Terrapins football games.

Nearly every major road in the Purple Line corridor will have intermittent lane closures, including Connecticut Avenue, Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road, U.S. Route 1, University Boulevard, Kenilworth Avenue, Riggs Road, Piney Branch Road, Route 410, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Temporary lane closures are generally prohibited in the peak direction during the morning and evening rush, according to contract documents.

I really really really hope this works out as well as it has in Charlotte. An east-west transit system in MoCo is a very desirable thing. But the massive cuts to the quality of the system design by Larry Hogan (and the increased cost to Montgomery  County as a result) combined with the “who knows where they came from?” ridership estimates, leave me gravely concerned that it will not end well at all.

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