“We’re all hard-working people,” Orellana said of the center’s 30 business owners one recent morning before his lunch crowd arrived. “We’re all very concerned. We know we can make it here. If they move us, most likely we won’t make it somewhere else.”
Maryland transit officials confirmed that they do, indeed, plan to begin buying private property for the project this fall, and those right-of-way costs are estimated at $200 million.
The state has yet to specify how it would pay for the Purple Line’s estimated $2.2 billion in construction costs. Maryland officials said they expect that the Federal Transit Administration won’t decide until early 2015 whether to award highly competitive construction funds to cover half the costs. A new state sales tax on gasoline began to kick in on July 1, but that revenue will be in high demand for a backlog of road and transit projects statewide, including a $2.6 billion light-rail Red Line planned for Baltimore.
The move to begin buying land for a Purple Line signals the proposal’s shift from a decades-old idea and engineering exercise into the nitty-gritty details of funding and construction.
Under the latest Purple Line plan, 110 property owners and tenants — 60 businesses and 50 homes and apartments — would be completely displaced. Many of them are near downtown Silver Spring in Montgomery County and in the Riverdale area of Prince George’s County.
The state can use its legal power of eminent domain to take possession of private property in exchange for “just compensation,” as governments routinely do for large public construction projects.
The transit agency has not released final figures for how many property owners would lose pieces of land without being completely displaced.
The Spring Center is one of the biggest clusters of businesses affected. Harvey Maisel, one of the shopping center’s owners, said he estimates about 300 people work there.
Michael Madden, the Maryland Transit Administration’s manager for Purple Line planning, said officials have begun to meet with property owners and tenants to advise them about government relocation help. However, he said, if a Purple Line wins federal construction funding, tenants and residents wouldn’t have to leave until at least early 2015. He said the state knows of 23 businesses in the shopping center that might need to move.