UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games

“I’m not going to kill the campus to get the Purple Line.” ~ Dr. CD Mote, UMD President

Hornbake more peds

That latest push from the  UMD Administration for a tunnel will add $51 million to the Purple Line project will effectively kill the federal funding for the Purple Line. This proposal presents exactly the same tunnel problems that their past tunnel proposals did, albeit it’s a bit cheaper. RTCP has been saying for 3 years that advocating for a campus tunnel is tantamount to a rejection of the entire 16-mile project. That’s regardless of whether UMD foots every penny of the tunnel bill or not. In the eyes of the Federal Transit Administration, the cost-effectiveness of the project is reduced equally:

Even if the university pays for the tunnel, the cost increase would still hurt the project’s chances at federal funding, said Purple Line project manager Mike Madden, due to FTA criteria that look at total costs, regardless of funding sources. UM wants underground tunnel for Purple Line [Gazzette]

The MTA has conducted 800 meeting (that number might have been said in jest) in College Park over the last 10 years about this project and literally 100s on campus including many related to concerns about EMI and vibration impacts on research. The time for proposing new alignments is long past.

This latest move along with the “test” closing of Campus Drive to all transit this summer is just another attempt at achieving a “pedestrian walking mall” on Campus Drive… a vision that is in no way, shape, or form advocated for in UMD’s Campus Master Plan. While such road closure practices can be successful in some areas and has been on other parts of campus and at other universities, UMD’s street network and the realities of the Purple Line planning process make such a vision impractical on Campus Drive. A Campus Drive closure would greatly hinder basic area transit access now and in the future.

RTCP is tired of the games. Please contact your local elected official and tell them enough is enough. UMD must fall into line. Demand that they release the locations and types of EMI-sensitive research experiments to MTA so the state can properly estimate mitigation costs. As of now they only have a very rough estimate of these costs: $1-2 million. EMI issues can and will be addressed at a fraction of the cost of a new tunnel.  If UMD continues to advocate for a tunnel, then there will be no federal funding and therefore no Purple Line. Plain and simple.

“Without the federal funding, there’s no project,” said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring. “We’re not about to let a few overpaid leadership folks at the University of Maryland insist on a tunnel here and put the project in danger.” UM wants underground tunnel for Purple Line [Gazzette]

Another article from the Washington City Paper does a great job of outlining what is at stake here. [MTA Tightens Screws on University of Maryland’s Purple Line Recalcitrance]

“Putting the line underground increases the cost significantly and reduces the affordability and competitiveness of the project,” said Mike Madden, the Purple Line’s project manager.  “The Purple Line has to compete in the national arena all over the country for federal funds.”

The MTA provides additional reasons for the exclusion of a “Morrill Quad Tunnel” option.

• Proposed cut-and-cover would cause major construction impacts
• Three years to construct with an open trench from just east of the School of Architecture to the Armory
• Permanently precludes the construction of three new buildings shown in the Master Plan
• Requires the demolition of historic Morrill Hall and the removal of many of the trees in this historic part of campus
• Not a viable alternative

Campus officials have outlined their solution in a document called “A Better Purple Line ” which clearly goes against every report produced by MTA on the subject. Among the many inaccuracies in that document is this gem;

…the University would have to strictly limit pedestrian access along the Purple Line alignment. This would require the installation of fencing, concrete jersey walls, stop lights or other pedestrian barriers along the entire route, effectively dividing the campus in half and diminishing the very spirit of campus community the University strives for.

Take a look at the renderings in this post of the Purple Line around Hornbake Plaza and you decide if that is what any reasonable person would consider “strictly limited pedestrian access”.
Campus Drive from stamp more peds

3 thoughts on “UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games”

  1. I’m curious with all the new student housing going up on Route 1 because of the claim that students are moving closer to the University has anyone done any surveys to see how many students would actually use the Purple Line? I’d like to see the results of those surveys. I’m sure you’ve posted them before. Could you direct me to the link that shows this information. Also, how full are the campus shuttle buses? What routes are the busiest and have the highest ridership?

  2. If the University is this shortsighted about the Purple Line, God only knows what else they’ve mucked up. What have they been doing for the past ten years? Sitting with their hands over their ears? Believe me, students, parents, and the state can find better ways to spend $42 million dollars rather than spend it on a tunnel that is not necessary. That’s a waste of money it seems. If they can pull that kind of “private funding” for a tunnel, why not put it towards East Campus?

  3. After walking along the route yesterday I can’t see how the purple line can go down campus drive without banning the street to traffic in the first place. There’s not a lot of room.

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