The following was written by Dr. Ralph Bennett, Professor Emeritus, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and will appear in the March 2010 edition of the Faculty Voice. Dr. Bennett has been a tireless advocate of sane campus development for well over a decade and continues to serve the campus community in several capacities… including his recent appointment to Dr. Gerlald Miller’s ad hoc Senate committee on campus land use decisions.
The University of Maryland will be widely recognized as a national model for a Green University. In ten years time the University will have made substantial progress towards addressing energy issues. It will have slashed energy use, expanded green spaces, dramatically reduced its carbon footprint, and built and retrofitted buildings to strict environmental standards.” The University will complement these concrete actions with its teaching, research, and development efforts in energy science and policy, smart growth, environmental mapping, sustainable agriculture, and other fields.
~University of Maryland Climate Action Plan, 2008
Two years ago, I wrote on these pages about the University’s apparent delaying tactics in supporting and planning for the Purple Line (“Red Herrings and the Purple Line”, 2008). Since that time, the State has shown remarkable leadership in re-starting the project after years of delay. Light rail on a route which brings it through the campus has been designated as the Locally Preferred Alternative by Gov. O’Malley and endorsed by the Council of Governments and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties – all milestones necessary to make the project eligible for Federal planning and construction money. And detailed design is well underway.
Sadly, similar progress cannot be reported for that part of the line which passes through our campus. The MD Transit Administration prefers and common sense supports an alignment which passes in front of Cole, the Stamp Union and crosses Route 1 north of the Dairy. Citing concerns about vibration and electromagnetic interference on the adjacent science campus (before, it was safety), the University is insisting on a winding southern route around Architecture, Preinkert, LeFrak and the Chapel and down to Rossborough.
But this route has not yet been fully studied. A recent determination to preserve Preinkert has added a reported $80 million tunnel to the route. How the 750 daily bus movements will be moved from their present location at the Union to a required new transit facility at Preinkert and Campus Drives is not clear. And it is also possible that the circuitous route fails to meet threshold requirements for transit performance.
The MD Transit Administration maintains their belief that the Campus Drive/Stamp Union alignment is the best. Simple understanding of passengers and their destinations affirms this. Remedies for the science campus are available including local isolation and shielding, low-interference propulsion systems, and sub-track location of the power wires.
The University’s public positions on sustainability, resource conservation and carbon emissions sound great, but its continuing delay of the Purple Line poses a real threat, not only to the University’s stated high intentions, but to this important regional facility as well, since delay jeopardizes the entire Purple Line and its place in the funding process.
A Committee of the University Senate has been asked to evaluate the Campus’s environmental decision-making process after the Wooded Hillock debacle. Locating the Purple Line deserves the same attention. Please contact your Campus Senator and your elected officials and encourage them to ask that the University live up to its obligations to the University community, the region and its own commitments to sustainable development.