The comments included neighborhood groups who said the Maryland Transit Administration’s analysis did not adequately assess the noise, vibrations and loss of tree canopy that light-rail trains would bring to communities between Bethesda and New Carrollton.
Environmental activists said the state analysis missed the potential impact on an endangered species in Rock Creek Park. Trail advocates said it did not adequately address potential health impacts on people who use the Georgetown Branch trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring, where acres of mature trees would be cut to accommodate trains.
Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group for low-income Latinos, voiced concerns about residents and businesses being displaced from the internationally diverse Langley Park area. The study, the group said, did not adequately address impacts to “environmental justice populations,” primarily low-income and minority residents.
The organization said it submitted a petition signed by 350 people asking for written documentation of how the state plans to prevent residents and businesses from being priced out of the area due to rents rising along with economic development around train stations.
The group also submitted a letter signed by 22 neighborhood organizations asking the state to create job training and placement programs to ensure local residents benefit from Purple Line construction jobs and those created by economic development.
Zorayda Moreira-Smith, the group’s manager of housing and community development, said Casa de Maryland supports a Purple Line for the area’s highly transit-dependent residents, but it wants the state to show how it would protect affordable housing and local jobs.
Without such planning, Moreira-Smith said in an interview, “The folks who would really benefit from it and who most need it would be displaced eventually and wouldn’t be able to benefit from it.”
The state’s analysis said the transit agency “understands small, local and [environmental justice] businesses will require some unique engagement.” It said the state will have a “business impact mitigation plan” to help local businesses during construction and will work with local officials on job development programs and affordable housing.
Maryland transit officials have said they plan to submit the final impact study to the Federal Transit Administration later this fall. If the federal agency approves it in a “record of decision,” state officials have said they plan to begin condemning private property to buy for the line’s right-of-way.
Paul Shepard, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration, declined to respond to any points made in the public comments.