Two County Council members want County Executive Isiah Leggett to support a group of neighborhood associations along the Purple Line route seeking noise, vibration and other mitigation from the 16-mile light rail system.
Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Cherri Branson on Monday penned a letter to Leggett asking for his support for the Coalition of Purple Line Neighborhoods (COPLN), a group organized in December with concerns about noise, vibration, tree loss, tree replacement, pedestrian and traffic safety issues surrounding the Purple Line.
COPLN includes neighborhood or civic groups representing Coquelin Run, Chevy Chase/Edgevale, East Bethesda, Kentbury Drive, Chevy Chase Hills, The Hamlets, Seven Oaks/Evanswood, North Woodside, Rosemary Hills, Lyttonsville, Park Hills and Sligo Branview, plus the Town of Chevy Chase.
Berliner and Branson called for Leggett to create a formal task force including COPLN members that would deal with DOT, MTA and the MTA’s yet-to-be picked private concessionaire during the final design, construction and initial operation of the Purple Line.
The council members also want Leggett to organize a meeting with State Senators Brian Frosh (Dist. 16) Rich Madaleno (Dist. 18) and Jamie Raskin (Dist. 20), MCDOT and the MTA to begin addressing the problems.
“Many of these residents, despite their vigorous engagement, feel disappointed in how their input has been received by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and County Department of Transportation (DOT) to date,” read the letter. “We can and should do better for our residents, which is why we request that you establish an advisory body to ensure that we are designing a project that minimizes community and environmental impacts while delivering improved accessibility and transit connectivity that gets people where they want to go.”
Many along the Purple Line route, which is proposed for the existing Georgetown Branch Extension of the Capital Crescent Trail, are worried about noise, pedestrian crossings and tree loss.
The Town of Chevy Chase recently agreed to a $350,000 contract with a cadre of legal and lobbying firms to make its case against the Purple Line as proposed by the MTA in its Final Environmental Impact Statement.
Included in the group is Alexander & Cleaver, a firm that lobbies lawmakers in Annapolis. The Town is opposed to the $2.37 billion system being built on the Capital Crescent Trail, which runs behind a number of homes in the Town.
But it also wants to push the MTA to guarantee certain mitigation techniques — including a four-foot high noise reduction wall the MTA promised in February 2013 but did not include in the FEIS.
The Purple Line got good news on the federal funding front last week when President Barack Obama recommended $100 million in the upcoming fiscal year for the project. The MTA is still waiting for a federal Record of Decision on its FEIS, which would finalize the mitigation the agency and a private concessionaire would be required to provide.
This controversial fence backing up to the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase belongs to Ajay Bhatt, the president of a group pushing to save the trail from Purple Line construction.
On Jan. 21, a district court judge ruled the fence — built last May — was built illegally, about 18 feet into the county’s right-of-way. It’s also in the path of a planned retaining wall for the Purple Line.
Thursday, longtime Purple Line supporter Wayne Phyillaier argued Bhatt’s new fence shows a conflict of interest and could pose problems for the Maryland Transit Administration if and when it starts building the 16-mile system. Part of the Purple Line would include two light rail tracks and a rebuilt trail on the existing Georgetown Branch extension right-of-way.
“I think it’s important that the county protect the right-of-way from new construction,” said Phyillaier, who wrote about the fence in detail on his blog, Silver Spring Trails. “He knew, or should have known, just from being in the middle of this for so long.”
Bhatt, who was fined $500, is appealing the ruling and will have another court hearing in April.
He is the president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, a group that opposes the Purple Line in its proposed form because it would mean the loss of the existing trail and some of the existing green space.
“Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is dedicated to preserving and augmenting the opportunities to appreciate nature and recreation on the segment of Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring,” Bhatt said in a prepared release on Wednesday in response to recent Purple Line funding decisions. “Our vision is a World Class Park stretching from Georgetown to Silver Spring. Clear cutting and removing a mature forest ecosystem inside the Beltway — where it can never be replaced — is contrary to the goals of smart growth and sustainability that so many environmental proponents of the Purple Line supposedly espouse.”
Behind homes in Chevy Chase that back up to the trail, there are many fences and sheds that are technically in the county-owned Georgetown Branch right-of-way.
Many were built before Montgomery County purchased the right-of-way for a potential transit line in 1988, some as far back as the 1950s. That has caused confusion and frustration among some homeowners whose backyards back up to the trail.
The trail used to be a CSX rail line.
Phyillaier said he’s making Bhatt’s fence a public issue because the construction is new.
“It’s the most recent construction that I know of,” Phyillaier said. “I don’t think it’s necessary for the county to start going through and ripping through all these old fences and old tool sheds. There’s really no public good in ripping them out or confronting the property owner. I think it’s important that the county confront Ajay or anyone else who is doing new construction.”
It’s the most recent example of Purple Line supporters and opponents butting heads.
As the Town of Chevy Chase debated a legal fund to lobby against the Purple Line, members of the pro-Purple Line Action Committee for Transit claimed Town Mayor Pat Burda had a conflict of interest and a public hearing wasn’t held in accordance with public meeting laws.
ACT also questioned the Town’s decision to hire a lobbying firm that employes the brother of an influential member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Burda rebuked ACT’s claims by saying the group was “attempting to distract from the obvious and abundant flaws,” in the Purple Line’s Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The Town Council later approved a contract of up to $350,000 with lobbyists and legal firms to fight the Purple Line and pressure the MTA into desired mitigation.
Phyillaier said he didn’t consult with ACT or any other pro-Purple Line group before examining Bhatt’s fence.
ACT on Thursday tweeted out a screen capture of the online court record of Bhatt’s fence case, which was brought by Montgomery County as a code violation.
Reached by email, Bhatt characterized the fence controversy as a series of personal attacks.
Fence photos via Wayne Phyillaier
The cost estimate for the Purple Line light rail has increased by $220 million, according to a Federal Transit Administration report.
The increase comes primarily from higher costs for right-of-way that must be acquired to make room for the system. The Purple Line is now projected to cost $2.37 billion, up from the previous projection of $2.15 billion.
The report, on the heels of President Obama’s recommendation on Tuesday for $100 million in federal funding for the project next fiscal year, gives a mostly favorable rating to the 16-mile, 21-station light rail system.
The Maryland Transit Administration is looking for $900 million in federal funding for the project, which it hopes to build and operate as part of a public-private partnership (P3) agreement.
The report does warn that the state’s projected growth in Transportation Trust Fund revenues and farebox collections “is more optimistic than historical experience.” The state projects 56,100 daily linked trips and almost 21 million annual linked trips by 2035.
Critics of the light rail proposed by the MTA have pointed to rising cost estimates as a reason alternative options — such as a bus rapid transit system — should be explored. The Purple Line’s western terminus would be in Bethesda and it would include a stop in Chevy Chase Lake.
“Success of rapid transit systems throughout the world, including the highly touted Select Bus Service in NYC, also beg the question whether Maryland’s persistent pursuit of an on-street fixed rail system in the middle of one of the most congested metropolitan areas is the most efficient use of tax-raised transportation dollars,” said Ajay Bhatt in a press release.
Bhatt is the president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.
The Friends group is against building the Purple Line on its proposed route along the Georgetown Branch Extension of the Capital Crescent Trail. The Town of Chevy Chase is also doing federal lobbying and could pursue a lawsuit in its efforts against the system.
Other changes from the last FTA review of the project in 2012 include an increase to 58 light rail vehicles from 55. The MTA has removed two grade-separated street crossings from the project.
Those will be replaced by at-grade crossings, meaning a reduced construction cost but a slightly longer travel time. MTA decided it needed the three extra vehicles to make up for that time.
Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration
Metrobus service will be restored on all routes at 7 a.m., but WMATA officials are warning of some route adjustments and delays.
Metrobus will operate under a moderate snow service plan, which means snow detours will be used to keep buses off hilly streets, narrow side streets and other problem areas. Get detailed maps here.
Montgomery County government is open Tuesday with liberal leave in effect for non-essential employees. The federal government offices are open with a 2-hour delayed arrival.
As you’ve probably heard, MCPS has closed school for the second straight day Tuesday.
Montgomery County snow removal operations have not yet reached many neighborhood streets. Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, said crews hope to have snow removed by Tuesday afternoon:
Schools closed again Tues. County DOT expects to have neighborhood streets plowed by afternoon.
— Ken Hartman (@kenatwork) March 4, 2014
Beach Drive has been reopened but remains closed at East-West Highway (the intersection of East-West and Jones Mill Road) in Chevy Chase because of ice.
Also, here’s your obligatory reminder to be careful because of that ice. Near-record low temperatures overnight mean plenty is leftover on roadways and sidewalks.
Flickr photo by Bill in DC
Updated at 11:20 a.m.
Roads The snow fall hasn’t stopped, which means Montgomery County Department of Transportation crews are still working on clearing major roads.
From Montgomery County:
Snow crews remain focused on keeping emergency routes, main roads and secondary roads passable for emergency vehicles, ensuring that every household is within one-half mile of a cleared road. Once the snowfall ends later today, crews will complete plowing main roads and then focus on neighborhood streets.
All Ride On bus service remains suspended due to hazardous weather conditions. Ride On will monitor weather and road conditions today and determine when service may be restored. Bus service will only be restored when it is safe to do so.
Trash and recycling collections are canceled today.
What’s Open? Metrorail. That’s it as far as transit goes.
Sports Extra (7817 Old Georgetown Rd.) is open for its regular 10 a.m.-7 p.m. hours. Anyone who makes it in will get a 10 percent discount. Bethesda Bagels (4819 Bethesda Ave.) and Old Georgetown Grille (7755 Old Georgetown Rd.) are open for anybody who feels like leaving the house for breakfast. Georgetown Square Beer and Wine (10400 Old Georgetown Rd.) is also open. Brickside Food & Drink (4866 Cordell Ave.) is open for its normal 4 p.m.-1 a.m. hours with happy hour pricing all night.
Westfield Montgomery Mall is planning to open at noon, though stores within the mall may have different schedules. Mussel Bar & Grille (7262 Woodmont Ave.) and Wildwood Kitchen (10223 Old Georgetown Rd.) will be open for lunch and dinner.
If you have a Bethesda, Chevy Chase or North Bethesda business that will be open Monday, let us know. We’ll add it.
What’s Closed? County government, the federal government, MCPS, Metrobus, Ride On and the Bethesda Circulator are all closed or have suspended service on Monday.
That has left quiet roads Monday.
Parking is free in county garages on Monday. Make sure not to park on streets that are Snow Emergency Routes. Cars parked in those areas will be towed at the owner’s expense.
Power Outages? Fewer than five customers are without power in Wood Acres as of 9:30 a.m. The possibility of freezing rain put Pepco officials on standby for downed lines and outages.
A poll commissioned by two pro-bus rapid transit groups shows 71 percent of likely Montgomery County voters support a BRT system, while 22 percent oppose it.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth and Communities for Transit commissioned the poll of 400 Montgomery County residents by D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Pollsters twice asked whether poll takers supported or opposed bus rapid transit in Montgomery County — once at the start of the poll and once after presenting some of the issues.
In November, the County Council approved a controversial master plan for a bus rapid transit network that will allow transportation planners to study and design 10 BRT corridors throughout the county. About 78 percent of those corridors would include a dedicated lane for buses, meaning a lane reserved for transit and cut off from regular traffic.
In congested areas such as Rockville Pike, that could mean taking a lane of regular traffic away. That prospect concerned many who testified against the master plan at the Planning Board and County Council.
But in the poll, 78 percent agreed that BRT “promotes the right kind of development by supporting walkable communities with mixed residential & commercial spaces along major commercial corridors like Rockville Pike.”
The survey was conducted Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. According to pollsters, 70 percent supported BRT at the beginning of the survey and 71 percent supported it after they were asked about some issues surrounding the network.
The highest rated argument for the BRT plan was its relatively cheap cost compared to other transit options. Eighty percent agreed that BRT is the most affordable option.
According to the poll, 63 percent believe mass transit — not new roads — will provide the greatest relief to traffic congestion in the county, while 32 percent disagree with that opinion.
Still, opinions on taking a lane of regular traffic away for BRT use weren’t as one-sided. Those surveyed were split 50/50, with 200 folks saying taking of lanes would make car traffic worse and 200 folks saying it wouldn’t or they aren’t sure.
Read the full results of the survey in the PDF below.
PDF: Mason-Dixon BRT Memo
The Town Council on Thursday voted 3-1 in favor of having Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and subcontractor Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell represent it at the federal level and subcontractor Alexander & Cleaver represent it in Annapolis.
The contract with the firms will be for a maximum total of $350,000.
Mayor Pat Burda said the money will cover lobbying by the firms and other yet-to-be decided legal strategies.
“We’re still working out strategies. I do know we will be undertaking lobbying. I feel confident we can say that,” Burda said. “We want to make sure that the state has followed the process as articulated through the feds so they can cross their t’s and dot their i’s and make sure they’ve done the right thing.”
The Town is officially opposed to the Purple Line, part of which would run behind homes in the Town on the existing Georgetown Branch Extension of the Capital Crescent Trail. The Maryland Transit Administration has said it hopes to start construction on the $2.1 billion project in late 2015. The project is dependent on about $900,000 in funding from the federal government, which is expected to issue a Record of Decision on the MTA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Purple Line soon.
The Town has safety, environmental, cost and logistical concerns about the project as proposed in the FEIS and has called for the state to reconsider the Capital Crescent Trail route and light rail mode.
Town Councilmember David Lublin voted in favor of the legal funding package, dismissing attacks from pro-Purple Line groups such as the Action Committee for Transit.
“The state of Maryland has lobbyists. The county has lobbyists and in fact the major interest group in favor of the Purple Line received funding from the major developer who stands to benefit from the process,” said Lublin, who reiterated the Town’s stance that the state should reexamine a bus rapid transit system instead of light rail. “To be honest, I think the Town is doing a public service by highlighting this overpriced method.”
Lublin said he would reconsider his position if the MTA guaranteed certain mitigation techniques by putting those into writing.
Burda said the Town wants a noise barrier that was promised by MTA officials last February but not included in the FEIS. It also wants a safe crossing to replace the existing crossing of the Trail at Lynn Drive, a popular route for Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students who live in the Town. Burda said other needs, such as mitigation for a required ventilation tower outside the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel, could arise.
The Town rejected the MTA’s proposal for a Lynn Drive crossing of the light rail because the structure would be built too high.
She said the Town’s Mitigation Advisory Group will continue to work with MTA.
“What we’re hoping is we’ll have better conversations, more productive conversations with MTA if we put a little bit of pressure on them to be perfectly honest,” Burda said.
The third time could be the charm for the Town of Chevy Chase, which is scheduled to vote Thursday on a controversial $360,000, 18-month contract with one of two D.C. firms to represent it in its fight against the Purple Line.
In the meantime, Purple Line proponents from the Action Committee for Transit (ACT) attacked Town Mayor Pat Burda, accusing her of making false statements about the activities of the D.C. firm under a temporary, month-long contract with the Town.
That firm – Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney — is one of two up for the long-term contract. ACT members also criticized the Town for contracting Robert Shuster, a lobbyist for the firm and brother of Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Last week, Burda read a prepared statement hitting back at ACT, describing the group’s criticism as an attempt to distract “from the obvious and abundant flaws” in the Purple Line by focusing on an out-of-context point published in The Washington Post. The quote, from Burda, said the Town was not lobbying Congress against the Purple Line.
ACT said a Congressional Lobbying Report proved otherwise. Burda said it was never her intention to claim the Town is not lobbying Congress. She said last week the Council was not prepared to make a decision on the $360,000 contract.
On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the Council will hold a special meeting to make that decision.
At 5 p.m., the Council will have a closed session to consult with its attorney about “potential litigation related to the proposed Purple Line project; and pursuant to Section 10-508(a)(14) to discuss a matter directly related to the contents of multiple, competing proposals for services because public discussion or disclosure would adversely impact the ability of the public body to participate in the competitive proposal process.”
At the public hearing, Burda warned colleagues about discussing the Town’s specific legal strategy in too much detail.
“I get nervous because I think part of having a strategy is being able to execute it,” Burda said. “I’m concerned if we went too into specifics, there will be some undermining of our efforts that would not be productive.”
The Town of Chevy Chase, which backs up the the planned Purple Line route, has long been opposed to the 16-mile light rail. Concerns about the Maryland Transit Administration’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project include rising cost projections, untold environmental impacts, the lack of a guarantee for a promised noise barrier and what the Town claims is no suitable plan for a replacement crossing of Lynn Drive.
Purple Line advocates worry a potential lawsuit from the Town concerning the FEIS could slow down the process. The MTA, seeking about $900 million of federal funding for the $2.2 billion project, hopes to begin construction in late 2015.
Photo via MTA
Now, the onus is on the county and the owner of the Apex Building to negotiate a financial deal that would allow the state to build it.
“We’re trying to create a context where it’s more compelling for them to do something that they, on the natural, wouldn’t do,” said Councilmember Roger Berliner.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) owns the building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave., which includes the group’s offices, the Regal 10 Movie Theater and ground-floor retail and restaurants. The Bethesda Purple Line station is going below the building in the existing Capital Crescent Trail tunnel. The Maryland Transit Administration must have a cleared site to build the separate tunnel for cyclists and what it says is the optimal station design.
But the ASHP, a professional group that makes its headquarters in the building, has shown tepid interest in razing the building or selling it to a developer who would raze it.
The Minor Master Plan Amendment approved by the Council on Tuesday allows more density and height in a redeveloped Apex Building — an attempt to incentivize the ASHP to redevelop or sell.
A new Apex Building would be allowed to reach 250 feet, 50 feet taller than any building around the Bethesda Metro station just a few blocks north.
The ASHP says more density alone won’t be enough to offset the financial losses it could take by abandoning the profitable building for the length of time it takes to build the station.
An outside study commissioned by the Planning Department backed up that stance, saying it would likely take between $5 and $10 million of public money to bridge the ASHP’s financial gap.
The folks at the Bethesda Urban Partnership are asking how well the Bethesda Circulator bus is working for you.
In an online survey, BUP and its division of Bethesda Transportation Solutions ask basic questions — such as how often survey-takers take the free shuttle and if it feels convenient.
There’s also a space for suggestions, which folks at BUP probably already anticipate will include pitches to expand the route past its Woodmont Triangle-Bethesda Row-Bethesda Metro station circuit.
It’s been a popular request in the past. At an open house last week on development plans for Westbard, one resident suggested extending the Circulator — two miles from downtown Bethesda to River Road — to increase the area’s transit options.
A BUP report said the bus averaged 29,000 riders. BUP and Bethesda Transportation Solutions took over the old Bethesda downtown trolley from the county in 2006.
Flickr photo by BeyondDC
Rate hikes could be on the way for Metro users.
WMATA on Tuesday night held a public hearing in Rockville on a set of proposed Metro rate hikes for later this year.
Under the current proposal, the base Metrorail peak fare would increase from $2.10 to $2.20 and the base off-peak fare would increase from $1.70 to $1.75. The maximum fare, with distance charges added in, would increase from $5.75 to $6.00 for peak and from $3.50 to $3.65 for off-peak. Standard Metrobus fares could increase as much as a quarter.
The WMATA Board could decide to pursue smaller increases.
Fifty-two percent of the system’s proposed $1.76 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2015 is funded with passenger fares and parking, 45 percent is funded with state and local government contributions and 3 percent comes from other revenue sources.
The budget proposal includes a $44 million increase in funding from local governments and assumes a roughly $30 million bump in fare revenue from the fare hikes, not including any additional fare revenues generated by ridership growth from the soon-to-open Silver Line to Dulles Airport.
Bethesda has had a recent history of Metro maintenance issues and the portion of the Red Line that runs through the area could face substantial renovations because of leaking water. Metro is expected to start a disruptive escalator replacement project at the Bethesda Metro station this year and has also said the station will be one of its “Station of the Future” pilot projects.
What do you think of the proposed rate hike? Is it necessary for a transit system attempting to improve or an unfair burden for customers who too frequently face service issues?
The Action Committee for Transit said it submitted a Maryland Public Information Act request to the Town for its contracts with the lobbying firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney. The Town has paid the firm $40,000 for two months of assistance in fighting the Purple Line, which is awaiting a key federal funding decision.
ACT’s Ben Ross claimed a report filed in January proves the Town is paying the firm — which includes lobbyist Robert Shuster — to lobby Congress against federal funding of the system.
Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is Robert Shuster’s brother.
Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda has denied the firm is lobbying congress against Purple Line funding and Robert Shuster has said he does not lobby his brother.
Now, Ross and ACT Vice President Ronit Dancis want to see any invoices or bills from the firm for its Town of Chevy Chase work, all correspondence between the Town, Town Council and the firm and “all minutes of all meetings” between the Town Council and the firm.
ACT also wants Burda to recuse herself from any deliberations regarding the public information request because she has said the Town is not lobbying Congress. It also asked that Councilmember John Bickerman recuse himself from deliberations regarding the request because Bickerman said in a public meeting on Jan. 8 that he has mediated cases involving Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney in the past.
ACT also questioned the openness of the Jan. 8 Council meeting on further legal funding for the Town’s push against the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Purple Line:
ACT vice-president Ronit Aviva Dancis pointed out that the town council waited until after oral testimony closed at a January 8 public hearing to reveal that money would be used for lobbying. Even then, the public was told only the name of the firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.
Most Town residents testified in opposition to the Purple Line and in support of spending money on a yet-to-be-defined legal strategy. Some residents said the Maryland Transit Administration’s FEIS for the project didn’t address all environmental concerns. Town officials indicated they want promised noise reduction walls put into writing. The Town’s official response to the FEIS said the MTA should consider another mode of transportation or route for the system.
The light rail would run behind a number of homes in the Town, which back up to the Georgetown Branch extension of the Capital Crescent Trail.
The long-simmering feud between pro- and anti-Purple Line entities should only pick up steam next week.
The Town Council will decide on Feb. 12 whether to spend $360,000 on an 18-month contract with either Shuster’s firm or Dickstein Shapiro.
At the January meeting, discussion of how that money would be used was limited.
“I get nervous because I think part of having a strategy is being able to execute it,” Burda said during the hearing. “I’m concerned if we went too into specifics, there will be some undermining of our efforts that would not be productive.”
The desired layout for a more spacious Bethesda Purple Line station has one flaw that county officials would likely want changed if the plan happens.
Last week, during a County Council Committee’s first worksession on zoning changes to incentivize the plan, Council staff pointed out how the so-called optimal design would mean passengers transferring to or from the Metro Red Line would not have a direct connection to or from the Purple Line platform.
In the preferred design from the Maryland Transit Administration, which is contingent upon the owner of the Apex Building razing the building, Metro passengers would have to take an elevator to street level and then another elevator, escalator or flight of stairs down to the Purple Line platform level.
The default design, which officials have warned would mean no Capital Crescent Trail tunnel, a cramped station and an eyesore of a ventilation tower, includes four elevators that connect to the Purple Line station level.
MTA officials told the Council’s Planning Committee that the extra step to transferring in the optimal design would add only about eight seconds to an approximately six-minute transfer process.
But Council staff and Planning Department staff worried the “extra barrier” to transferring at what’s anticipated to be one of the Purple Line’s busiest stations could be a deterrent to some riders.
“It’s not just a travel time issue,” said Planning Department transportation expert David Anspacher. “It’s also a pedestrian congestion issue.”
State Highway Administration officials will be in Chevy Chase on Feb. 19 to show final project plans and discuss a construction schedule for the much-discussed sidewalk project along Wisconsin Avenue’s “Green Mile.”
The state wants to build a 0.7-mile, $1.2 million sidewalk to connect bus stops on the northbound side of Wisconsin Avenue between Grafton Street and Bradley Lane.
Many in Chevy Chase are opposed to the project. Some think it will mean the loss of too many trees in the stretch of road that connects downtown Bethesda with Friendship Heights.
The project was originally going to mean the removal of 53 trees along the stretch, which borders the golf course of the Chevy Chase Club.
The SHA removed five of those large elm trees in fall 2012 because they were decaying, but said they were going to reevaluate the project tree-by-tree to see if the sidewalk could be worked around root areas. Many of the trees are invasive and unhealthy, SHA officials said at a contentious community meeting in January 2013.
Many Chevy Chase residents and cyclists who use the route spoke up in favor of the sidewalk. Others said they don’t want it simply because it would mean more cyclists.
The Feb. 19 meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Chevy Chase Village Hall (5906 Connecticut Ave.). Village staff will transmit comments of people who can’t make the meeting to SHA officials. Just email the Village Office at ccv[at]montgomerycountymd[dot]gov.
In November, the SHA announced it would be building three crossings in the area — including one on Wisconsin Avenue at Chevy Chase Boulevard, about halfway between the existing crosswalks at Bradley Lane and Dorset Avenue. There are four bus stops on the northbound side of the Green Mile.
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