September 29, 2013

The Sept. 26 front-page article “Purple Line route altered to spare private golf course” reported on the deal between Maryland and Montgomery County and Columbia Country Club of Chevy Chase in which the club promises to drop its opposition to the Purple Line. The story refers to the “Georgetown Branch running and biking trail, which crosses the golf course.” Any non-informed reader would think that the country club has been seeking to protect its golf course and a nice trail from the intrusion of a rail line.

It’s called the “Georgetown Branch” because the Purple Line route tracks the old Georgetown Branch freight rail line that ran from Silver Spring through Chevy Chase and Bethesda to Georgetown. The club chose to build its golf course around a functioning railroad line. In the 1980s, after freight trains ceased running along that rail line, we, the people of Maryland, paid a princely sum for that rail line route to run light-rail passenger cars to connect the Silver Spring and Bethesda Metro stations and the county’s two dominant downtowns. The nice trail came later, in the 1990s, to be an added feature to a long-planned, publicly necessary transitway route.

Gus Bauman, Silver Spring

The writer was chairman of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission from 1989 to 1993.

The Post reports that in return for undisclosed concessions, the Columbia Country Club will no longer oppose the construction of the proposed Purple Line through its property. This probably removes the last major obstacle from routing the Purple Line through the Capital Crescent park, rather than along existing roads such as the East-West Highway.

Although a new paved trail would be built adjacent to the rail line, the park itself would be effectively destroyed. Yet the cost to society of taking over this parkland has not been accounted for in the cost estimates for the Purple Line. The current $2.2 billion estimate for the cost of building the line assigns a value of exactly zero for the parkland it would take. But parkland is worth far more than zero.

Other projects require an environmental offset when parkland is taken, but none has been required here. The project should be required to obtain and set aside equivalent land nearby for use as park space. This would restore balance and tell us the true cost of this project.

Frank J. Lysy, Washington

●It is not surprising that the Columbia Country Club has the resources to hire the most effective lawyers and consultants, that golfers have more political clout than bicyclists and hikers who use the trail that is to become the Purple Line or even that an elected official, such as council member Roger Berliner, claims he is in the dark about this agreement. What is surprising is that a legal agreement that binds public officials in the Maryland Transit Administration and Montgomery County and also involves a hotly contested public matter is not revealed until four months after its signing — and only because of a public records request by The Post.

Marie Park, Chevy Chase