Proposed Construction of Purple Line Brings Unwanted Noise

Although some residents like the idea of a light rail in Silver Spring, others say it brings too many complications.

After becoming part of Montgomery County's Master Plan earlier this month, the Purple Line that would link Bethesda to New Carrollton is still under scrutiny from local residents.

The Seven Oaks-Evenwood Citizens Association, representing an area just northeast of the downtown area, has made several efforts to get the Maryland Transit Administration to alter its plans for the light rail's surface construction on Wayne Avenue. Since last year, the neighborhood association has worked with MTA planners to resolve residential concerns.

"I am a strong advocate of mass transit improvements and building infrastructure that the county needs for the future," said Valerie Ervin, councilmember for District 5 in a letter to MTA planners. "But this cannot be done in a manner that impacts residents' quality of life."

The 16-mile rail would use Bonifant Street and continue onto Wayne Avenue the station at the Silver Spring Library. After passing through Manchester Road, the train would enter a tunnel underneath Plymouth Avenue for quarter of a mile, and then resurface onto Arliss Street before merging onto Piney Branch Road.

The second station in Silver Spring will be at the downtown transit center, along with the Metrorail and MARC trains.

But the issue for residents is not the mass transportation itself. Most are in support of the $1.6 billion project, which would offer a low-cost means of traveling east and west through Montgomery and Prince George's counties without traveling through Washington, D.C., or using multiple bus lines.

The Seven Oaks-Evenwood group is concerned that street-level construction will lead to other nuisances, including noise for nearby residents and more traffic congestion.

"Whether the Purple Line is a light rail or transit bus, tunneling under Wayne Avenue and downtown Silver Spring is necessary to improve the overall efficiency of the Purple Line and make it a more appealing transit option," said Mark Gabrielle, the association's president.

The association is concerned that the project will cause more traffic on Wayne Avenue, which will end up pouring more traffic onto Dale Drive, Sligo Creek Parkway and Colesville Road. 

"We know there is some opposition at Dale Drive but people see it as a real plus to have access to the whole region," said Michael Madden, Project  Manager for the Purple Line.

According to Madden, noise shouldn't be a concern during construction because there are regulations that have to be followed and the sounds won't be louder then any other project that has been worked on. 

After construction, "Skirts are on the vehicles there are covers that go over the wheels and are meant to reduce noise levels by up to 8 decibals. The  Federal Transit Administration conducted a survey for measuring the noise impact and showed up slightly lower then ambient noise"

The Seven Oaks-Evenwood Citizens Association citizens association plans to meet in to discuss their concerns further in September before the MTA proceeds with construction.

Paul September 03, 2010 at 01:49 PM
The study was not an FTA study, but an MTA study based on FTA guidelines. However, because there were so few spots chosen for the noise samples, the contour of the land which isn't included in the mathematical models to compensate for the lack of sensors in the study, and the time of year the study was done (when all the trees had leaves on them, muffling the noise from Wayne Ave on nearby streets), the results are rather deceptive. Also the rubber skirts mentioned in the article only work if the track doesn't change direction that much, while we all know Wayne Ave has a significant curvature, particularly near Bonifant and the Park. The noise would also increase dramatically if a station is built at Dale Dr, despite overwhelming evidence that its uneconomic, a threat to the character of the local community, would make the Purple Line less effective as rapid public transport--especially as the latest Purple Line studies show that crossing Georgia Ave is likely to cause traffic jams and have an adverse impact on the rest of the Purple Line.
Tamika Smith (Editor) September 15, 2010 at 11:05 PM
Thanks Paul for these details you added. Are you involved in track maintenance with transportation?


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