Purple Line advocates say a federal lobbying report proves the Town of Chevy Chase is paying the brother of a key congressional committee chairman to lobby against the 16-mile light rail planned for Chevy Chase and Bethesda.
The Action Committee for Transit’s Ben Ross claimed a report filed in January proves the Town — long opposed to the Purple Line — is paying the D.C. firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney to lobby Congress against federal funding of the system.
One of three lobbyists listed on the report is Robert Shuster, brother of Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
In a Washington Post story last week, Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda said the Town was not lobbying Congress. She also said Shuster told her that he can’t and won’t lobby his brother. Maryland is looking for about $900 million in federal funding for the $2.2 billion project. State transit officials expect a Record of Decision in the next few weeks from the Federal Transit Administration on their Final Environmental Impact Statement.
“The news about this unseemly arrangement gets worse and worse,” said ACT member and Bethesda resident Ronit Dancis.
The report lists Shuster as lobbying the House of Representatives and Senate for the Town of Chevy Chase in transportation and municipal urban development issues.
The Town will decide next month whether to spend $360,000 on an 18-month contract with either Shuster’s firm or Dickstein Shapiro. On Jan. 8, the Town Council approved another $20,000 contract with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney for another month.
John Bickerman, a Town councilmember, voted against extending the month contract with Shuster’s firm in favor of pursuing an environmental lawsuit based on the endangered shrimp-like creature thought to be in Rock Creek.
“I think that the strategy to lobby House Republicans against a Democratic administration is a waste of money,” Bickerman said. “It’s not going to take our opponents long to figure out we’re hiring a firm to lobby Congress against that.”
The Action Committee for Transit has long been at-odds with the Town over the fate of the Purple Line, which will run behind a number of homes in the square-mile town.
Ross and other Purple Line supporters have frequently characterized the Town as a wealthy enclave with changing and conflicting reasons for opposing the transit system. Town leadership says it has legitimate concerns about how the light rail would bring noise and development and encroach on the Georgetown Branch extension of the Capital Crescent Trail.
Purple Line rendering via Maryland Transit Administration