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Md. Proceeding With Transit Center at Takoma/Langley Crossroads

By Mike Meno
Gazette Staff Writer
Thursday, September 27, 2007

State transportation officials say they will try again to purchase the site of the Taco Bell at the Langley Park Shopping Center, where the owner has rejected previous offers by the State Highway Administration to acquire the property for a planned transit center.

If the owner does not accept the new offer, the state's next step would be to condemn the one-acre property and take it through eminent domain, Dennis German, chief of the community design division for the highway administration, told local officials last week. The process would transfer the property's title to the state and compensate the owner.

Transportation officials hope to complete an appraisal of the property by next month and make a new offer to California-based Reliable Properties, the shopping center's owner, German said.

German's update came during a meeting of the Multijurisdictional Pedestrian Safety Committee, a group of state, county and city representatives who oversee Takoma/Langley Crossroads, a commercial area at University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue on the Prince George's County line. The Crossroads is crowded with pedestrians, bus commuters and vehicle traffic.

A $12 million transit center, which would consolidate eight existing bus stops under a canopy, has been planned for more than a year and would include space for a light rail or bus transit station on the proposed Purple Line.

Reliable Properties previously suggested an alternative site on Lebanon Street behind the shopping center.

"We are not going to accept that," German told the committee. Transit officials have said the Lebanon Street site is not compatible with their plans, and the location would not help reduce pedestrian accidents.

Lawrence Shulman, an attorney representing Reliable Properties, said his client is concerned about a reduction in parking and shopping center entrances that would result from the transit facility.

Maryland Transit Authority project manager Michael Madden told the committee that the state is moving along with plans so the design is ready when the property becomes available. "We don't want to hold the project up any longer than we have to," he said.

The transit authority is planning a public meeting to present the design after first briefing officials with the State Highway Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Takoma Park.

The consolidation of eight existing bus stops into a single transit center was a key recommendation of a pedestrian study released by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in mid-August. The Takoma/Langley Crossroads has a history of pedestrian accidents and fatalities.

Erwin Mack, executive director of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority, said a transit center would also help area businesses because "you're bringing a significant number of people to a single location as opposed to multiple locations."

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