Purple Line trains would run down the middle of Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale Park rather than along the side, one of several changes Maryland transit planners say they have made to the proposed light rail line to spare businesses in the area.
State transit planners said they also were able to save those commercial buildings along Kenilworth because they persuaded state highway planners to abandon plans to eventually widen the street. That widening is no longer necessary based on updated traffic projections for the area, which haven’t kept pace with forecasts, transit planners said.
Michael Madden, the Maryland Transit Administration’s manager on the Purple Line study, said he expects local business owners and residents will be pleased to hear of the changes, which MTA officials plan to explain in more detail at a community meeting Thursday. Six of the nine commercial buildings initially slated to be torn down, including a church and bowling alley, would now be spared, Madden said.
“We think this will address the concerns of the community,” Madden said.
A proposed 16-mile Purple Line is designed to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton. State officials say it would provide better east-west transit than buses stuck in traffic and help rejuvenate older communities inside the Capital Beltway, particularly those such as the Riverdale area in Prince George’s County.
Planners have said that attracting enough riders to make the line competitive for federal construction money requires threading the two tracks through densely populated areas. However, because almost all of the line is above ground, that would require the state to buy and condemn hundreds of parcels along the route.
Riverdale Park Mayor Vernon Archer said the town would welcome better transit, but he and others have been concerned about the potential impacts along Kenilworth Avenue.
“We don’t want to damage a part of our town with fairly thriving businesses,” Archer said. “It’s part of our community.”
Previous plans called for running trains along the western edge of Kenilworth. Running them down the median would add 30 seconds of travel time for the trains because they would have to cross southbound Kenilworth traffic when they travel between Kenwilworth and River Road on their way to and from College Park.
The trains would continue to run on an elevated structure over the intersection of Kenilworth and Riverdale Road to avoid traffic congestion, Madden said. However, running trains down the median would allow that structure to be shorter, he said. That would allow Quintana Street west of Kenilworth to remain open. The street previously would have been cut off by a retaining wall that is no longer needed, he said.
Thursday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Riverdale Park Town Hall, 5008 Queensbury Rd.