The Maryland Transit Administration will present information this Monday about where the Purple Line could go on campus when the light rail link is constructed between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29 in the University Visitor Center. We strongly encourage everyone interested in the future of the Purple Line to attend.
The meeting comes amid increased conversation about the proper location of the train in relation to East Campus and the larger campus. After months of insisting the trains should travel under Campus along Campus Drive as a tunnel, President Dan Mote has come out with a new, forceful position in an article in the Diamondback yesterday: he strongly supports the line at street level (at-grade), but along the university’s newly invented alignment that uses stadium Stadium Drive instead of stopping in front of the Student Union. Readers will remember that together with other student leaders, we pressured the administration last spring to re-think their insistence on an infeasible tunnel and champion the project. While we’re glad Mote has accepted the inevitability of an at-grade alignment, we think Mote’s recent column distorts both the character of Light Rail technology and the campus master plan (which in fact argues Campus Drive should contain public transit). Among the misconceptions and thinly supported opinions the article contains is the allegation it cannot bisect East Campus because it requires a 130-foot right of way.
During a detailed presentation to the East Campus Steering Committee on Monday, I showed how Light Rail technology could fit into streets as narrow as 35 feet. Indeed, Salt Lake City has built a system on streets with four lanes of traffic and two 10-foot sidewalks on a right-of-way just over 100 feet.
President Mote’s strategy of privately determining where he believes the line should go and entering the public forum demanding we support the “right” location makes a mockery of good leadership. The university is a large, complex institution with thousands of people who rely heavily on transit. The “right” location can only be determined through a robust dialogue with engineers based on hard facts about the true width, noise, and trade-offs required by various locations on campus. We will continue to address the full nature of the impact of the project on campus and advocate for solutions that maximize the benefit to the University and the region.