Noise From Purple Line Tunnel Work Returns for Long Branch Neighbors

Noise From Purple Line Tunnel Work Returns for Long Branch Neighbors

Elected leaders call for changes in ‘nighttime disturbances’ from blasting, other construction

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Crews work on the Manchester Station tunnel in Silver Spring in September.

File photo

After a three-month reprieve, some residents in Silver Spring’s Long Branch neighborhood say they are again enduring around-the-clock vibrations and noise from construction of the Purple Line.

Elected officials are asking the Maryland Transit Administration to scale back operations even as new construction delays have been reported that could push back the opening and raise the cost of the $2.4 billion light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton by more than 10 percent.

Annie Tulkin, who lives on Bradford Road near the construction site of the Manchester Tunnel, said that crews began blasting in the tunnel Jan. 23. The noise isn’t always bothersome to her, but several of the other 40 neighbors have complained of being wakened in the middle of the night.

“It’s intermittent. It’s not every night. We don’t always know when the sound is going to be happening,” she said.

Tulkin and her neighbors had complained to the MTA during the fall after being awakened by jackhammering on the tunnel. After a meeting with Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn in October, the MTA agreed to suspend evening work.

Separate from the nighttime noise, crews are now using explosives to complete the final third of the blast work in the tunnel, said John Undeland, a spokesman for Purple Line Transit Partners — a public-private partnership that is managing the project.

Undeland said blasting occurs between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m., but that the explosives are usually being transported to the site during the first hour of that window, and blasts are not occurring then.

State and local officials have written MTA Executive Director for Transit Development and Delivery Charles Lattuca, asking for a reduction in the amount of concrete hammering that goes on between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and an adjustment of hours in which explosives are used to between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.

One letter, dated Jan. 30, was signed by Montgomery County Council District 5 member Tom Hucker (Silver Spring), District 2 member Craig Rice (Germantown) and at-large members Hans Riemer, Evan Glass and Gabe Albornoz.

“The area around the Plymouth Tunnel is entirely residential and home to dozens of families with young children. We believe a balance can be found between the need to keep the Purple Line project on schedule and the right of our residents to sleep through the night without unpredictable loud noise from underground work,” the council members wrote.

Another letter, dated Jan. 28, was signed by Maryland state Sen. Will Smith and delegates David Moon, Jheanelle Wilkins and Lorig Charkoudian, who represent District 20 (Silver Spring/Takoma Park) in the state legislature.

“Due to the nature of the residential neighborhood, we are concerned about the health impacts these nighttime disturbances have on residents in this neighborhood,” they wrote.

The MTA is overseeing the implementation of the Purple Line, but Purple Line Transit Partners is responsible for the construction and funding of the project. MTA spokesman Gary Witherspoon wrote in an email Thursday that the agency has renewed the agreement with Purple Line Transit partners to restrict the use of some equipment between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“Meanwhile, five of six blasts for the Plymouth Street Tunnel have been during the day and the other was around 8 p.m. MDOT MTA will continue to work closely with PLTC to have blasting carried out in the daytime,” he added.

The Purple Line, when completed, will stretch 16 miles from Montgomery to Prince George’s County. Although the projected date of completion is 2022, the opening could be delayed at least a year if the project is held up by an environmental lawsuit.

“We want to get our project done as soon as possible and stop having impacts on the neighbors, and blasting is a very efficient way to accomplish work,” Undeland said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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