Chevy Chase Suit Will Wait for Final Analysis of Purple Line

By Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Town of Chevy Chase will wait two years, or until more detailed design work is finished, before deciding whether to file a lawsuit against the Maryland Transit Administration over its plans to build a Purple Line along a well-used trail, a town official said.

The Chevy Chase Town Council had been contemplating its legal options, including soliciting residents' opinions at a July public hearing on whether to hire a lawyer. However, council member Pat Burda said officials decided to hold off after learning recently that federal law would prohibit a lawsuit from progressing until the state's final environmental analysis of a light-rail line won federal approval. State officials say that review will take about two years.

Burda said that the town would like to avoid a lawsuit but that residents remain concerned about a light-rail line's impact on the wooded Georgetown Branch Trail, a popular walking and biking trail that abuts the town between Bethesda and Silver Spring. The 16-mile Purple Line, estimated to cost $1.68 billion, would run east-west between New Carrollton and Bethesda.

Burda said a legal challenge would allege that the state's environmental review did not sufficiently consider a less-expensive option that would avoid the trail by running a bus rapid-transit line farther north, along Jones Bridge Road. The law firm of Sidley Austin worked pro bono to scrutinize the state's draft environmental review but is no longer working for the town, Burda said.

Maryland transit officials have said that the trail route would be faster and more reliable.

In the meantime, Burda said, the town will help state planners work on ways to help mitigate harm to the trail and to maintain public access to it.

"We have made it clear that this doesn't preclude us from taking any necessary [legal] action," Burda said.

Michael D. Madden, the state's project manager on the Purple Line study, said he invited Chevy Chase residents as well as others who oppose the Purple Line route through downtown Silver Spring to offer input.

"We still want to work with them," Madden said. "There are still a lot of things to be decided."

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