MTA pushing for additional Purple Line stop in Silver Spring
Immediate construction of Dale Drive station still opposed by county
State transit officials are pushing for a light rail station at Dale Drive in Silver Spring to be completed during initial construction of the Purple Line, despite opposition from county officials and planners and mixed opinions from residents.
The Maryland Transit Administration has long taken a wait-and-see approach with the concept of building a Purple Line station at Dale Drive and Wayne Avenue, deferring a decision until after initial construction of the Purple Line, the proposed 16-mile, 20-station light rail system connecting downtown Bethesda to New Carrollton. If community support was strong enough and estimated ridership numbers proved that a station in the overwhelmingly residential, single-family neighborhood was necessary, MTA could build the station at a later date, county officials have said.
But support for a station is already there, according to Michael Madden, the Purple Line project manager with MTA. So while the council, planning department and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett have not wavered on wanting to evaluate a Dale Drive station after the Purple Line is built, negotiations over fast-tracking the stop have begun as the county reviews the Purple Line Functional Master Plan, a planning guide for the proposed route.
"They have already told us to design [the Purple Line] so we can build the station at some other time," Madden said in a phone interview last week. "We want them to reconsider the recommendation."
Madden said there's no timetable for a final decision on the station, and it won't come to a formal vote, instead requiring a compromise from both sides.
"It's possible [for MTA] to override the council, but we don't plan on having to do it," Madden said.
Cost is not an issue with the Dale Drive station; it will cost an estimated $2 million to build the stop and $1.67 billion to build the entire transit line.
It's the potential for rampant development that comes with any new transit line that is a concern, opponents to the station say. And, with a station also planned for the new Silver Spring Library at Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue, just a half-mile from the proposed Dale Drive station, it's also a question of whether enough people will use the station to justify risking the neighborhood's character, opponents say.
"There's no way that the ridership will be what they project," said Mark Gabriele, a Silver Spring resident and president of the Seven Oaks and Evanswood Civic Association, which is near the proposed station.
SOECA had unsuccessfully pushed MTA to run the Wayne Avenue portion of the transit line underground because of the potential impacts on the neighborhood. The group does not have an official stance on the Dale Drive station, nor does another neighboring group, Park Hills Civic Association.
Supporters of the station have said the future of the neighborhood depends on offering attractive transit options to new residents who are less inclined to use cars.
"I think it's going to raise property values and everybody will be for it," said Tina Slater, who has gained about 175 petitions from Silver Spring residents favoring the stop and is a member of Silver Spring Advocates, a pro-Purple Line group mostly split on the Dale Drive station. "People will want to move to the neighborhood."
For the Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line, which includes stations between the Silver Spring Metro stop and Manchester Road, there would be 14,197 Purple Line riders per day if there were no station on Dale Drive, according to MTA statistics compiled last summer. With a station, ridership would be 15,844.
Without a Dale Drive station, there would be a nearly one-mile gap between the Silver Spring Library station and a proposed station at Manchester Road and Wayne Avenue, as the line heads toward New Carrollton.
Madden said a transit planning rule-of-thumb is that people are generally willing to walk a quarter-mile to public transit.
"It's a pretty long walk," he said of residents in the neighborhood using a non-Dale Drive station.