Locals in Montgomery County are furious at how the Purple Line construction is being handled in their community.
The Purple Line has been a running joke for years. Every time an official said they were about to break ground, something came up to delay the project even more. Now, the Purple Line construction is in full swing but locals in Montgomery County are furious at how the process has been handled so far. The chief concern from locals is that they aren’t being given enough warning for construction-related closures.
Take the decision to close the Georgetown Branch Trail as an example. This is a local walking/running trail that many locals use on a daily basis. This month, it was announced that the Georgetown Branch Trail would be closed for a period of four-to-five years.
While it is understandable for the trail to close to make way for construction, local residents and community leaders were given less than a week’s notice that a local fixture would be closing for half a decade (or possibly longer, given the history of the Purple Line project). The Purple Line construction project began on August 28. By September 5, the trail had been closed.
The local community is now pushing back. Six local leaders from the Silver Spring area have sent a letter to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett demanding that they be given more notice of construction plans that will disrupt their communities. The letter not only details the rapid closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail, but also lists spontaneous road closures, changing traffic markings, and tree felling that is causing havoc in the community.
As a result, our neighbors are becoming agitated, anxious and, for some, hostile to what could otherwise have been a routine, minor annoyance surrounding construction activity,” the letter reads. “To be clear, we are not demanding a halt or slowdown in implementation of Purple Line activities. Rather, we are insisting on prior notice and community meetings starting now, not at some indeterminate point in the future.”
The group is not looking for the trail to be re-opened. They are simply asking for advanced notice before there are construction-related closures that affect the surrounding areas. Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) officials previously told localities that local meetings would begin in November. Clearly, the local outrage is proof that is not nearly soon enough.
State and local officials had promised to provide localities with transparency and forewarning when construction was expected to negatively impact the county. State law even required that locals be given 30-days notice before the Georgetown Branch Trail was to be closed. Yet, state regulators waived that requirement in the interest of moving the project along after years of delays.
And that is what local community leaders are pressing back against. The fact that the Purple Line project was delayed for years by red tape and lawsuits doesn’t mean that it should move ahead without concern for the communities it affects. Locals should have the chance to run on a trail one last time before it closes, adjust their route to work to avoid road closures, and schedule around contractors using loud machinery right outside their windows. It is a common courtesy that these locals expected, were promised, and are now demanding.
In response to the letter, MTA spokeswoman Sandy Arnette said the Purple Line’s Community Advisory Teams would move up their schedule and begin holding local meetings in mid-October. While she didn’t address any of the specific local concerns, Arnette said the MTA looks forward to creating “a dialogue with the community.”
The Montgomery County Council promptly scheduled a public meeting to allow council members and citizens alike to ask state and transit officials questions about the project.