By Kiah Beachler
SILVER SPRING, Md. –The construction of the Purple Line is quite literally dividing the Metropolitan area on whether or not the predicted benefits of this new railway will outweigh its costs.
In 2009 the Purple Line Light Rail was first proposed as a way to connect the greater Washington D.C. area. But now, ten years later, communities are experiencing first hand the effects of extensive construction that could last until 2024.
Construction is planned to start from Woodmont Avenue and continue east around the D.C border to Ellin and Harkins Road, creating a route that will make it much easier for commuters to travel between Bethesda and Prince George’s County.
One of the more populated areas that will have considerable access to the Purple Line once it’s constructed is Silver Spring, including downtown.
Though this area will be provided with a new transportation system when the line is finished, Silver Spring is currently one of the cities most affected by construction.
The Long Branch station construction has been especially disruptive because of underground drilling for the tunnel that will connect it to the Manchester Place station.
Sarena Yuth, a Long Branch resident, says that construction “can be very disruptive ” and barriers “cause a lot of dangerous traffic.”
Others like Jason On stated that construction often “shakes the house” and those in his neighborhood “can’t drive on [their] road.”
But the Purple Line doesn’t just cut through the community– the station construction separates Yuth and On’s neighborhood from a Giant Food grocery and a small strip of local businesses.
Ada Villatoro, owner of a nearby restaurant EL Golfo, claims that the construction has not only been disruptive to the area, but has affected many local establishments financially.
“They took away our upper parking lot which belonged to [Giant]… so when customers come and can’t find a space to park they just drive away,” says Villatoro. “I don’t know if all of the small businesses are going to stay. Next door the Rainbow Laundramat had to close.”
The Purple Line NOW, however, expressed that “local access to businesses will be maintained.”
Additionally, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has promised to “work with local businesses” and “create ‘Open for Business During Construction’ signage… and provide resources and counsel.”
While these signs are observable in front of the entrance to Giant Foods, they are nowhere to be found near the small businesses in the strip.
WAMU reported that while to some it seems that the construction is separating communities and putting local establishments out of business, benefits will probably not materialize right away and people will see pockets of change.
Some residents, such as Mebrie Jenberie, also side with the Purple Line and its outreach programs, saying that “it can be disruptive sometimes but they have let us know, and they haven’t bothered us.”
For any major construction endeavor it is inevitable to encounter discomfort within the community, but the Purple Line coordinators and their supporters believe that in the long term the railway will greatly improve the Metropolitan area and counter the negative effects of construction.
Andrew Fellows, faculty research assistant for the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, notes that the future for the Purple Line is extremely bright, and will provide many new opportunities for communities.
“[The Purple Line] will be so much better for communities who have been underserved,” says Fellows, “the goal is to revitalize and enhance communities… and minimize displacement.” Fellows also drew comparisons to the beginnings of the D.C. metro, reflecting that “D.C was all ripped up. But now everyone loves the metro.”
UMD’s student run newspaper, The Diamondback, reported that the implementation of a light rail into the metro will help reduce Maryland’s carbon footprint and provide an environmentally friendly transportation option.
Kimberly Golden Brandt, director of “Smart Growth Maryland” for Preservation of Maryland, commented that “if we’re going to get serious about doing our part to mitigate climate change, we need to provide people with viable alternatives to driving. The Purple Line does that.”
Gary Witherspoon, assistant director of public outreach and communications for MTA, described that the Purple Line will not only be good for the environment, but will also create new economic opportunities.
“[The Purple Line] will directly create over 6,300 jobs over the course of construction. It also has triggered economic development, with more than $2 billion in private projects launched or announced along the 16.2-mile corridor,” says Witherspoon. “It’s a big win for the region.”
UMD, the Preservation of Maryland, and the Maryland Transit Administration have all been listed as organizations supporting the Purple Line by Purple Line NOW.
It seems that no matter the consequences construction and completion of the Purple Line are bound to happen, and all that can be done to aid communities is to utilize and communicate with the Purple Line policy’s outreach.
Until its completion, no one can be certain whether the current disturbances of construction will be worth the promised benefits.
To provide your opinion, request assistance, or learn about the Purple Line visit these resources:
Purple Line NOW
Purple Line Corridor Coalition
Maryland Transit Administration
443-451-3706 / 443-451-3705 (Español)
Purple Line Transit Constructors