State to notify residents, business owners in path of Purple Line

Maryland transit officials are preparing to notify 110 residents and business owners along the planned 16-mile Purple Line route that they might have to move if a light-rail line is built between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Letters will be hand-delivered later this month and in June to 50 residents and 60 business owners potentially in the path of future train tracks and stations, state transit officials said.

“The purpose of this notice is to inform you that the property you occupy may be affected by this project,” the letter states. The word “may” is in bold and underlined.

Michael D. Madden, the Maryland Transit Administration’s manager for Purple Line planning, said that only people whose entire property would potentially be condemned are being notified now so they can learn about government assistance programs, including help finding a new location.

“People are asking questions,” Madden said. “We don’t want people to panic or to move now thinking they have to without going through the process.”

Map of proposed Purple Line

The list, which has not been released, is “pretty definite but not absolute,” Madden said.

Sajid Chaudhry, who owns a Shell station at Kenilworth Avenue and East-West Highway in Riverdale Park, said the state notified him two years ago that his station’s site might be needed for a Purple Line station. Chaudhry said he leases the land from an oil distributor.

Chaudhry said he’s worried about how much he would be compensated for a business he paid $300,000 for about 10 years ago and thinks would sell today for $500,000. Unlike other businesses that don’t require underground fuel tanks, Chaudhry said, his can’t easily move.

“It’s a serious, serious loss,” Chaudhry said. “There is a lot of hard work and a lot of my money in there.”

Some of the 50 residences affected are apartment units, Madden said. About 20 are houses along East-West Highway in the Riverdale area. About two dozen of the 60 businesses are in one four-story office building at 1110 Bonifant St. in downtown Silver Spring, he said.

The relocations aren’t a certainty, Madden said. Design changes still could be made to spare more properties, he said, and the project, which is estimated to cost $2.15 billion to build, does not have construction funding.

People who could lose part of their land will be notified after September, when the state expects to receive federal approval of its environmental study, Madden said. State officials previously have said more than 300 properties could be affected; Madden said he did not have a more current number available.

That list of partial property impacts also is “still very fluid,” he said.

The proposed Purple Line would have 21 stops, and two-car trains powered by overhead electrical lines would run mostly along streets. If federal and state funding is secured, officials say, construction could begin in 2015 with the line opening in 2020.

Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer said property owners who stand to lose a home or business have been notified repeatedly and invited to participate in meetings about the rail plan. The state also has spared some businesses and homes through design changes, he said.

“I’m not saying people will be happy,” Archer said, “but they won’t be surprised.”

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.
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