News & Politics

Purple Line Plan Would Result in Demolition of 116 Homes and Businesses

The planned commuter route linking Maryland's suburbs will bring a fair amount of disruption to those communities.

An environmental impact study for Maryland’s planned Purple Line light rail says that if the train gets built along officials’ preferred route, 116 homes and businesses will have to be displaced. The line would also require most of the trees surrounding a bike trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring to be removed, and it would make life much noisier for anyone living within a 500-foot radius.

The Maryland Department of Transportation released the study yesterday, offering the most details so far about what the 16-mile commuter line will mean to the communities it will course through. When complete, the Purple Line will run from New Carrollton, in Prince George’s County, to Bethesda, in Montgomery County. It will also connect with Metro, MARC, and Amtrak train systems. Planners hope to break ground in 2015 and have trains running by 2020.

Of the buildings that will need to be removed, 53 are houses or apartments, 60 are business, and three are “institutional properties,” such as a post office in Silver Spring.

Another 315 parcels of land would have to be condemned during construction, the Washington Post reports, mostly to make way for equipment, drainage, and other effects of such a massive project. The new study also increases the Purple Line’s projected construction price from $1.6 billion to $2.15 billion. It would then cost $38 million a year to operate.

Then there’s the noise. The environmental study calls for the installation of a wall to act as a noise barrier along the Georgetown Branch Trail, an extension of the Capital Crescent Trail that runs between Bethesda and Silver Spring. The wall, which would be no less than four feet high, would be designed to protect residential areas from the rumbling of passing trains, though things would almost certainly get louder for cyclist and pedestrians using the pathway.

But the Purple Line is sorely needed as the suburban counties continue to fill up. Once complete, the 21-station light rail will cut the trip between Bethesda and New Carrollton from 93 minutes to 62 minutes.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.