Thursday, September 26, 2013

Purple Line pact removes LRT obstacle

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Purple Line pact removes LRT obstacle Maryland Transit Administration

Maryland Transit Administration and Montgomery County have reached a legal agreement with the Columbia Country Club on adjusting the proposed Purple Line light rail transit route, with both sides quietly claiming victory.

The agreement allows the country club, located in Chevy Chase, Md., to maintain its current layout even where it lies adjacent to the LRT route, with the route being adjusted to allow same. In return, the country club, whose membership includes powerful political and financial players, would cease opposing the project, including filing or funding any future lawsuits, or aiding any anti-rail demonstrations by other parties.

Agreement on the 25-page pact was quietly reached last June 20. A copy of the agreement was first obtained by the Washington Post.

The $2.2 billion, 16-mile Purple Line will arc north of Washington, D.C. in Maryland through Montgomery and Prince George's counties, with four transfer connections to Washington Metrorail, and also linking the University of Maryland. The line's endpoint cities are New Carrollton and Bethesda. Maryland is seeking to advance the project in a private-public partnership arrangement.

Moving the proposed LRT right-of-way roughly one-third of a mile through the golf course reportedly would help protect clubhouse views and spare four holes, according to the agreement and state documents. Area LRT advocates privately suggested to Railway Age the argument on views is in essence a face-saving measure for the country club.

But other concessions to the golf course are literally more concrete, including four-foot sound walls, and an agreement by Montgomery County to provide "exclusive" use of two golf-cart underpasses and county-owned land where the golf course already exists, free of charge.

The public comment period for the Purple Line Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) recently was extended 15 days, with a new deadline of Oct. 21, 2013.

Resistance to LRT's implementation from other parties remains, including from the municipality of  Chevy Chase itself, located near the route's western terminus of Bethesda. But pro-rail advocates hailed news of the agreement Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, arguing that a powerful obstacle had been overcome in the drive to establish LRT