The Town of Chevy Chase has hired a law firm to evaluate the Maryland Transit Administration’s plans to build a 16-mile light-rail Purple Line, which would run along the town’s border on its proposed alignment between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Mayor Pat Burda said the council voted Wednesday evening to pay the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney $20,000 for a second month of work. The firm has represented the town since early December, also at a monthly fee of $20,000, Burda said. The town has hired the firm on a monthly basis until the council is expected to vote in mid-February on a longer-term arrangement, she said.
“We’re working with them and exploring what our overall strategy will end up being,” Burda said.
Burda said town leaders have not decided yet whether they will file a lawsuit against the transit project.
The town is focusing on the state’s recently released final environmental study, which is awaiting approval by the Federal Transit Administration. Burda said some residents are concerned that the study doesn’t provide enough details about the size of sound barriers and retaining walls planned near homes and how users of the Capital Crescent Trail would cross the trail at Lynn Drive once trains run alongside it. Other residents are concerned that the study didn’t mention the Hay’s Spring amphipod, a tiny shrimplike animal listed as an endangered species that has been found in Rock Creek Park downstream of the planned alignment.
Lawsuits against the $2.2-billion project may be filed within 150 days after the federally required final environmental impact statement is approved, state officials have said.
The light-rail line would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton, with 21 stations, including in North Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Langley Park, College Park and Riverdale Park. The line is designed to connect Maryland’s spokes of the Metrorail system with Amtrak and MARC commuter rail stations while spurring redevelopment in older inner-Beltway suburbs.
The Town of Chevy Chase has long objected to the proposed alignment along the trail between downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring. Asked whether the town has hired lawyers to try to delay the project, Burda said: “This is not about slowing things down. This is about getting answers and making sure processes are followed.”
Burda added: “We know there will be people out there who will label us, but our community will have major impacts [from a Purple Line], and we want to make sure they’ve followed proper procedures.”
The state is seeking private companies to design, build, operate, maintain and help finance a Purple Line. The state also expects to hear early this year whether the Federal Transit Administration will recommend it for $900 million in federal construction funding.