Purple Line Paves Way for Environmental Debate
Critics say line will hurt; others disagree.
Nora Levy-Forsythe jogs the Bethesda segment of a 13-mile nature trail that links Georgetown to Silver Spring almost every day when home from college.
But, as construction of the $1.93 billion Purple Line threatens to plow through several miles of the Capital Crescent Trail, Levy-Forsythe said she would give up this oasis of nature.
And it’s not just the trail—19 acres of forest and more than 5,000 feet of streams may be demolished when the Purple Line is built, according to environmental impact documents the Maryland Transit Administration drafted in 2008.
“I’m totally for more public transportation,” Levy-Forsythe said. “If it means less SUVs in this neighborhood, less big cars, less any cars really, I’m fine with it.”
MTA officials insist the light rail will improve air quality by taking cars off the road. Purple Line Project Manager Michael Madden said the environmental impact documents are outdated and that the MTA will release the final version next spring.
The MTA—backed by the Environmental Protection Agency—plans to begin construction of the line in 2015.
Critics such as Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail President Ajay Bhatt said the anticipated development that will spring up around Purple Line stations will increase the already debilitating traffic congestion.
“The amount of traffic that comes in and out of D.C. every day is tremendous,” Bhatt said. “It’s backed up from Chevy Chase Circle, passed the Beltway, into Kensington and if you put a large commercial district in here, the traffic is going to be that much worse.”
However, MTA says the light rail line, which will run through Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, will have little impact on the already urbanized environment. According to Madden, teams of engineers, environmental planners and the like have actively attempted to minimize any adverse effects.
The report also projects that the change in air pollution from the Purple Line will amount to less than a half of a percent.
“It is a challenge,” Madden said. “There are several parts that we impact, but from a very minor standpoint. We’ve made every effort we can to revise the alignment to minimize any impact we can.”
As for Levy-Forsythe, she’ll continue jogging on the trail until construction begins for a project she says is a much-needed improvement.
“[To] make these streets more accessible for bikes, put in more public transportation, all of that,” she said, “I would give up this place to run.”
Do you think the Purple Line will hurt the environment?