Chevy Chase to spend $804,000 in attempt to block Purple Line construction

CHEVY CHASE, Md. (WJLA) - The Town of Chevy Chase is setting aside hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars; a pile of cash aimed at de-railing the Purple Line.

Although the proposed light rail system would likely alleviate traffic congestion by connecting the Red Line in Bethesda with the Orange Line in New Carrollton, many residents aren't onboard with the idea.

High on their list of concerns --- changes to the Capital Crescent Trail. The Purple Line would dramatically alter the popular path, which runs from Georgetown to Silver Spring. Plans call for the commuter line to run parallel with the recreational path between Bethesda and the western edge of Silver Spring. Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, a group which publicly opposes any development alongside the CCT, believes construction will greatly diminish a sense of serenity.

"The Purple Line will bulldoze a three-mile section of the Capital Crescent Trail, clear-cutting thousands of trees along a 20-acre path and constructing twin sets of railroad tracks and high-voltage catenary wires to supply power to the trains," the organization states on its website.

Last week, the Chevy Chase town council voted 4-0 to approve a $15,000 grant for Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail. The vast majority of that money will be used to hire David Culver, an American University natural science professor. Culver will research the Purple Line's potential environmental impacts, focussing his attention on nearby streams. It's believed the waterways are home to a species of endangered amphipods, tiny shrimp-like critters, which could be put at risk by added urbanization.

"It's going to decimate the Capital Crescent Trail," Chevy Chase town manager Todd Hoffman said. "This isn't a temporary project, it's permanent. It will have permanent environmental impacts."

In 2008, Chevy Chase began flexing its financial muscle in attempt to block the Purple Line. To date, the town made-up of historic homes and well-manicured lawns, has shelled-out $570,000 in lobbying efforts, with $234,000 more budgeted for fiscal year 2015. All told, Chevy Chase's anti-Purple Line tab will soon top $800,000.

"The town council feels like it's very well spent money," Hoffman added. "They're opposed to it [the Purple Line] as it's currently conceived. They think bus rapid transit lines are a much smarter alternative."

While the council has, for the most part, remained unanimous in its opposition toward the Purple Line, walkers, runners and bikers remain split on the issue.

"I feel a little bit like the trail is a rallying cause for something else," walker Laurel Lee remarked. "In my opinion, this is all an attempt to keep their [Chevy Chase's] enclave a bit under-developed."

"I'm very concerned," bicyclist Aaron Auerbach said. "I worry about how loud it's [the Purple Line] going to be. I worry about pollution or litter that may come from the trains."

"As long as we can preserve the right-of-way for pedestrians and cyclists, while also providing public transit, I'm okay with the project," DC-resident David Moskovitz remarked.

The Maryland Transit Administration, which is leading planning and construction of the $2.2 billion transit project, doesn't appear intimidated by Chevy Chase's enmity or financial influence. MTA administrators say groundbreaking on the 16-mile long line will occur sometime in 2015, with completion scheduled for 2020.

"We live in a society where everyone talks about things being green, and I certainly think this will take away some of that greenness," Auerbach concluded. "That would just be a tragedy."