The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY CHRIS­TINE REAL DE AZUA AND ANNE VORCE Chris­tine Real de Azua of Chevy Chase, an en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tant, is a plain­tiff in the fed­eral law­suits against the Pur­ple Line. Anne Vorce, an econ­o­mist, lives in Sil­ver Spring.

It’s not too late to stop the Pur­ple Line, a boon­dog­gle that will hurt peo­ple and wildlife.

The $5.6 bil­lion Pur­ple Line con­tract signed by Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) sad­dles Mary­land with a 40 per­cent in­crease in long-term debt — prob­a­bly the largest in the state’s his­tory. Tax­pay­ers and trees beware: Ex­or­bi­tant price is but the tip of the ice­berg of the Pur­ple Line’s harm and costs to tax­pay­ers, area com­muters, our en­vi­ron­ment and tran­sit it­self.

The cap­i­tal cost alone — $150 mil­lion per mile — is far higher than the costs for other com­pa­ra­ble light-rail sys­tems. The Mary­land Tran­sit Administration found that bus rapid tran­sit alternatives would have been more cost-ef­fec­tive but chose light rail any­way.

The pub­lic-pri­vate-part­ner­ship con­tract does not hold the pri­vate con­trac­tor ac­count­able for the key per­for­mance cri­te­rion: rid­er­ship (and, there­fore, rev­enue gen­er­a­tion). In ef­fect, with the con­tract, Ho­gan sup­pressed any rea­son for the pri­vate sec­tor to take a hard-nosed, mar­ket­based look at project vi­a­bil­ity. If this is in­tended to serve as a model for the na­tion, that is bad news. In any case, it is bad news for Mary­lan­ders.

Mean­while, tran­sit and con­ges­tion re­lief pri­or­i­ties go un­met and are un­der­funded. The Washington Metropoli­tan Area Tran­sit Author­ity’s cri­sis con­tin­ues. Metro and lo­cally run bus sys­tems des­per­ately need funds. In Mont­gomery County, where the 10 most con­gested road­ways run north-south, many com­muters, work­ers and res­i­dents won’t ben­e­fit at all — and may see con­ges­tion get worse — be­cause the Pur­ple Line will run east-west.

The Pur­ple Line won’t take many cars off the road. Mary­land Tran­sit Administration projections show that more than two out of ev­ery three rid­ers are al­ready tran­sit users. In other words, the project won’t re­duce con­ges­tion or air pol­lu­tion, as Mary­land’s U.S. sen­a­tors, Ben­jamin L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D), sug­gested.

The Pur­ple Line will de­stroy 48 acres of for­est, in­clud­ing the sec­tion of the Cap­i­tal Cres­cent Trail that runs from Bethesda to Rock Creek Park, and af­fect wet­lands, bird and wildlife habi­tats, and wa­ter qual­ity near Rock Creek, Sligo Creek and other streams within the Po­tomac and Ana­cos­tia wa­ter­sheds. MTA es­ti­mates that 229 higher-risk hazardous ma­te­ri­als sites could be un­earthed by the con­struc­tion of the Pur­ple Line. Im­per­vi­ous sur­faces make storm wa­ter runoff a night­mare, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing in­tense rain­storms. The elim­i­na­tion of our ma­ture tree canopy (the gold stan­dard of storm wa­ter man­age­ment) will make con­di­tions far worse.

The Pur­ple Line is al­ready pric­ing many res­i­dents out of homes and busi­nesses — and won’t ben­e­fit them at all. Af­ford­able-hous­ing poli­cies aren’t able to stanch the loss of hous­ing within reach of lower- and mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies. How can small busi­nesses sur­vive?

Make no mis­take: The Pur­ple Line will trans­form our com­mu­ni­ties in ways not sup­ported by most of the peo­ple who live there. Com­ing soon are noise pol­lu­tion and air- and wa­ter-qual­ity is­sues, es­pe­cially dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Safety is­sues are al­ready with us. The abrupt clos­ing of the Ge­orge­town Branch sec­tion of the Cap­i­tal Cres­cent Trail on the first day of school dumped stu­dents onto heav­ily traf­ficked roads such as East-West High­way with­out a safe al­ter­na­tive. And safety is­sues will not go away once the Pur­ple Line is built. Try hav­ing your chil­dren cross one of the un­usu­ally com­plex Pur­ple Line in­ter­sec­tions ev­ery day just to get to school.

Af­ter years of pub­lic con­cerns left un­heeded by MTA, cit­i­zens brought a law­suit in 2014. This month, based on new claims and al­leged vi­o­la­tions, they filed for a pause on tree clear­ing while these claims are ad­ju­di­cated. Mean­while, where are the po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who should stop the harm that af­fects not just lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties but all Mary­lan­ders?

At a min­i­mum, un­til the project’s le­gal­ity has been es­tab­lished, the MTA and the Fed­eral Tran­sit Administration should stop any clearcut­ting of for­est and other ir­repara­ble harm. Bet­ter yet, Ho­gan and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should sim­ply drop this harm­ful boon­dog­gle and in­stead fo­cus on truly ben­e­fi­cial projects that com­ply with the law.


Signs be­gan ap­pear­ing Sept. 5 along the Ge­orge­town Branch Trail an­nounc­ing the trail’s clo­sure for con­struc­tion of the light-rail Pur­ple Line.

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