The Maryland Transit Administration won’t have free reign in its construction of the light-rail Purple Line light rail near a pair of Montgomery County public schools.
Work on the 16-mile rail line that will stretch from Bethesda to New Carrollton is expected to be complete by 2020, and in February the county school board authorized development of parts of the project at both Silver Spring International Middle School and Sligo Creek Elementary School, which are both located on the corner of Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive.
The board this week passed a memorandum of understanding with the MTA outlining safety, security and site requirements during and following construction of the Purple Line, which is being built by Purple Line Transit Partners through a public-private partnership.
“When we met and talked about the Purple Line before, a lot of promises were being made and the board felt very strongly we need an MOU because by the time the Purple Line is done some key players might not still be sitting at the table,” District 3 member Pat O’Neill of Bethesda said.
The memorandum sets limits on the hours of work to minimize noise during school hours and requires the principals of both schools to be notified prior to commencing work at each school site. It also requires Silver Spring International’s parking lot facing Dale Drive be fully operational during the school year and that the retaining wall being built be independently certified as sound and sufficient to support future school improvements.
To ensure student safety, the memorandum also requires background checks for any worker who needs access to the interior of any school site, as well as ensuring a background-checked Purple Line employee be on site at all times that construction is underway at the school sites. Security cameras are to be installed at the Purple Line station that will be built on Wayne Avenue, positioned to capture the adjacent school parking lot and the area around the station.
At-Large board member Jill Ortman-Fouse added input she’s received from community members asking for existing speed cameras along Wayne Avenue to be activated to improve the “already unsafe corridor.”
Montgomery County police Chief Tom Manger said his department will conduct traffic evaluations and other studies to ensure the change in traffic patterns once construction is complete is as safe and efficient as possible.
“We do those evaluations to see if it needs more resources, more patrols, more crossing guards,” Manger said. “It doesn’t have to get bad before we fix it. We’ll stay on top of it.”
A similar memorandum for Purple Line work at Rosemary Hills Elementary School on Porter Road in Silver Spring is expected to be passed by the board later this fall.