2017 | Transportation

Details Emerging on Purple Line Construction Process

Georgetown Branch Trail to close 'relatively soon'

Purple Line Transit Partners CEO Rob Chappell, left, poses with others during the groundbreaking for the Purple Line on Monday

Andrew Metcalf

Purple Line construction activity soon will be visible in Montgomery County.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said at the light-rail line’s groundbreaking on Monday that the initial construction phase would begin immediately.

Christopher Doherty, a spokesman for Purple Line Transit Partners, the team of finance and construction companies building the 16.2-mile light-rail line, said at the groundbreaking the initial work will include preconstruction activity such as staging vehicles next to construction sites and notifying communities along the route.

He said the Georgetown Branch Trail—the unpaved portion of the Capital Crescent Trail that stretches about 3.5 miles between Bethesda and Silver Spring—will be closed to users “relatively soon.”

He said construction vehicles will be placed in areas where the right-of-way has been secured. Crews also will begin cutting down trees in certain places.

“There are some restrictions about when trees can be taken down,” Doherty said. “Obviously, that’s being adhered to.”

Federal law prevents crews from cutting down trees along much of the trail between April and the end of August to protect the nests of migratory birds.

Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Mary Flynn wrote in the town’s September newsletter that state and county officials have informed the town the trail might close as early as mid-September.

Montgomery County transportation planners proposed an interim trail route between Bethesda and Silver Spring in March that travels through east Bethesda, along Jones Bridge Road and through the Lyttonsville area. Small signs have been posted along the route to direct bikers and walkers, but it’s not clear if the county has finalized the route. A transportation planner was not immediately available for comment Tuesday morning.

Doherty said Purple Line Transit Partners will hang notices on doors to notify residents near the Purple Line route about what to expect as construction starts.

A construction notice on the Purple Line website notes work will occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and some work might occur seven days a week. The early construction work will include demolishing structures in the right-of-way, marking and relocating utilities, building access roadways and doing excavation and foundation work, according to the notice.

Arliss Street site prep work near the intersection of Flower Avenue in eastern Silver Spring also will begin immediately. Crews will install erosion-control measures, put up safety fencing, remove trees and relocate utilities along Arliss Street.

“Portions of the site will serve for storage of equipment and material,” a notice about the Arliss Street work says. “Access to homes and businesses will remain open though commercial vehicles will be in the area.”

The Arliss Street work zone. Credit: Purple Line website

In Montgomery County, the Purple Line will travel from the Bethesda Metro station along the Georgetown Branch Trail on the northern border of Chevy Chase, through the Lyttonsville area, then connect with the Silver Spring Transit Center and Silver Spring Library. Then, it will travel in mixed traffic along Wayne Avenue and enter a tunnel before reaching Arliss Street and heading into Prince George’s County along Piney Branch Road and University Boulevard.

Stations that will be built inside the county include Bethesda, Connecticut Avenue at Chevy Chase Lake Drive, Lyttonsville, Woodside at 16th Street, Silver Spring Transit Center, Silver Spring Library, Dale Drive at Wayne Avenue, Manchester Place, Long Branch and Piney Branch Road.

More – The 10 Latest Designs for Montgomery County's Purple Line Stations

The Bethesda and Silver Spring Transit Center stations will connect with the horseshoe ends of Metro’s Red Line.

Purple Line map (click to enlarge)

County Council member Nancy Floreen, who chairs the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, said Monday that the Purple Line will help spur development and economic growth in communities it will connect.

“We’re hoping this will help a lot in Langley Park and the area east of downtown Silver Spring,” Floreen said. “There’s a lot of commercial property there with a lot of potential. We’d like to see that area grow in a way that supports the existing community and really creates a lot of job opportunities.”

Over the past decade, the council has approved master plans to change zoning and land-use regulations in areas such as Lyttonsville, Long Branch and Langley Park, Floreen said.

She said that in those locations, the county plans for a mix of new retail, office and residential buildings to be developed. She added that the master plans don’t permit uses “as intense as downtown Silver Spring or downtown Bethesda, but still an improvement over the beginnings of what’s in those locations.”

“They have a long way to go before they’re the economic draws and support systems that we think they have the potential to be,” Floreen said. “We need to take advantage of the huge investment we’re making in the Purple Line.”

Purple Line Transit Partners is building the light-rail line, which is estimated to cost about $2 billion. The cost is being funded by a mix of federal, state and county funds. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties committed more than $300 million in cash and noncash contributions to fund the project. Montgomery County agreed to fund more than $170 million in in-kind contributions so crews can build the south entrance elevators to the Bethesda Metro station, a rebuilt paved trail along the light-rail line and the Silver Spring Green Trail.

On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a $900 million funding agreement with the federal government to help finance construction of the light-rail line.

Rahn said Monday the state has not moved the estimated 2022 completion date.

“We are hopeful we can continue on that [timeline], but it’s not certain,” Rahn said. “We’ll have to see what progress is made over the coming months.”

Purple Line Transit Partners is also tasked with maintaining and operating the light-rail line under the $5.6 billion, 36-year contract it signed with the state last year. The construction companies that are part of the team include Flour Enterprises, a Texas based firm that is one of the largest construction companies in the world, as well as The Lane Construction Corporation, a heavy civil construction company, and Traylor Brothers Inc., which specializes in bridge and underground work.