The Town Council met in an executive session on Monday night and voted unanimously to hire a technical and legal consultant to formulate a response to the Purple Line Final Environmental Impact Statement, which the Maryland Transit Administration released on Sept. 6.
The 16-mile light rail would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton. The Bethesda and Chevy Chase sections of the system would run on the Georgetown Branch Trail right-of-way, which is directly behind a number of homes in the Town.
Many in the town have long been opposed to the Purple Line, which residents worry will bring noise and other disruptions to the half-mile-square area split by Connecticut Avenue. In a Council meeting last week, Councilmembers were unhappy about the lack of an at-grade crossing of the Trail right-of-way on Lynn Drive.
The MTA on Monday extended the 30-day public comment period on the FEIS to 45 days, which the Town of Chevy Chase requested. New Town council member John Bickerman, who has said the town should hire a lobbyist to convince the Federal Transit Administration not to help fund the $2.2 billion project, advocated delaying the project as long as possible:
“You gotta think out of the box. We gotta be creative. As a practical matter, no one is going to read these comments,” Bickerman said, according to The Gazette. “I think we go after the process of land acquisition and condemnation. Stall that process so that the state can’t acquire land.”
That prompted a response on Tuesday from the Action Committee for Transit, a pro-Purple Line group that has long butted heads with the Town of Chevy Chase:
Town of Chevy Chase councilman John Bickerman told a Sept. 11 Town Council meeting that the way to kill the light rail project is with delay tactics. “I think we go after the process of land acquisition and condemnation,” he said. “Stall that process so that the state can’t acquire land.” Council members differed over the best method of stalling.
The Town plans to hire consultants to fight the Purple Line using income tax money rebated from the county. Because the rebate, although intended to compensate for the cost of services, is calculated from the amount of income tax paid by town residents rather than from the cost of the services provided, this wealthy town finds itself with more money than it knows what to do with — $8.2 million in the bank. Effectively, the future Purple Line riders this privileged enclave wants to keep out — less affluent taxpayers who live in the rest of the county — will pay the fees of the hired guns who work to exclude them.
Town Treasurer David Lublin said income tax revenues are hard to predict because the state doesn’t release information on revenues to municipalities for privacy reasons. The result was the second straight yearly budget surplus after two deficits in FY10 and FY11, mostly due to falling income tax revenues.
Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration