The new design is good news for residents and elected officials who had wholeheartedly opposed the state’s intention to put their station atop a 26-foot-tall concrete wall, which critics had dubbed the “Trump Wall.”
State and county officials spent the last year negotiating how to get back to the original design, chiefly debating who would pay for the additional cost. Bradley Frome, a top economic development aide to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), said they agreed the state will contribute $1.5 million and the county $7.2 million. As part of the deal, the county will make two payments of $3.6 million, one in 2020 and the other in 2021.
“At the end of the day getting this design right was important to us,” Frome said.
The Riverdale Park station is one of 21 planned stops along the east-west light-rail line connecting Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. It was redesigned in 2015 from a bridge structure to a retained fill wall.
The redesign was part of a package of cost-cutting measures Gov. Larry Hogan (R) pushed to move the $5.6 billion project forward. Other modifications across the Purple Line ranged from reducing landscaping at stations to replacing fully enclosed platforms with standard station canopies.
In Riverdale Park, residents and local elected officials saw the 500-foot-long, 47-foot-wide wall as an unacceptable alternative and a threat to the growth they hope the light-rail line would spur.
“There are some changes we were willing to live with. This wasn’t one of them,” Frome said. “We think that having an open design was something that allows for vibrancy in the area behind the station.”
For the county, this meant agreeing to make an extra contribution to the project to which it had already committed $120 million.
The Riverdale Park station is planned for the southeast side of the Kenilworth Avenue and East-West Highway (Route 410) crossroad, one of the busiest in Prince George’s. The site is surrounded by fast-food establishments, ethnic groceries and small, family-owned businesses.
The open design includes space beneath the station, where residents envision community gatherings such as a weekly farmer’s market.
The 16-mile light-rail line will run from Bethesda in Montgomery to New Carrollton in Prince George’s and it will connect to Amtrak and MARC commuter rail stations and Metro. Construction is on hold pending resolution of a federal lawsuit that challenges the project on environmental grounds. Maryland transportation officials had planned to begin construction last fall; the line is scheduled to open in 2022.
Katherine Shaver contributed to this report.