UMD Releases Purple Line Consulting Study

UMD just released its much anticipated consultant study of Purple Line alternatives through campus. The study, produced by Hatch Mott MacDonald (HMM), a Canadian-based engineering firm, sheds light on UMD’s current feeling on a controversy that has consumed the campus for nearly four years.

We reported a couple weeks back about our cautious optimism that President Loh may be preparing for a workable resolution to the Purple Line debate. We’re still digging into the 169-page document, but its important to note up front that the document was commissioned well before Loh was tapped for his new post. Indeed, President Loh is scheduling an open forum on the alignment issue on Feb. 1. We commend him for this step. He has invited Garth Rockcastle, former dean of the UMD College of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, to speak on the benefits of the Campus Drive alignment, which Rockcastle believes in completely. The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will speak as well. We are unsure who else will attend, but aside from MTA, we expect the majority to be campus administrators and staff.

Some of the items in the report are quite technical, but overall the study seems to suggest that UMD continues (at least as far as we can tell) to grasp at straws: Choosing to focus primarily on pedestrian safety and unworkable south campus alignments rather than the realistic and fundable Campus Drive alignment.

MTA’s written response towards the end of the report is quite revealing. The fact that they had a limited role in the production of this document only confirms the report’s single-purpose nature: to poke holes in the Campus Drive alignment while building the case for the report’s pre-determined conclusion. HMM ignores that a Preinkert Drive tunnel is neither prudent nor feasible…and never mentions that such an alignment is fundamentally unattainable from a funding perspective. UMD has succumbed to one of the most pervasive pitfalls in all realms of transportation and land use planning: The lure of fantasy alternatives and “visions” has thus far obscured the path to pragmatic, achievable compromise.

HMM should have at least acknowledged that Campus Drive is the most likely alternative to reach fruition. In ignoring this basic fact, UMD missed a great opportunity to suggest ways to tweak the Campus Drive alignment to make it more compatible with the pedestrian activity on campus. Pedestrian safety is a legitimate concern, but the issue can’t be adequately adressed without a true partnership between UMD and MTA.

Despite a few promising steps towards collaboration along the way, UMD long ago forfeited any real opportunity to take on a leadership role. Astoundingly, UMD’s consultants now underestimate the time and resources MTA has invested in studying various proposed alignments which UMD itself put forward. We hope that President Loh can help reverse the unconscionable course that his predecessor set and forge a new transportation future for the the state of Maryland’s flagship campus.

4 thoughts on “UMD Releases Purple Line Consulting Study”

  1. daddio and his never ending disdain for mote reminds me of obama blaming things on bush long into his presidency. tho not mentioning him by name, daddio has to take his shot at the end of this piece. its been said many times on here: (almost as many as snarky mote comments by daddio) : its big money donors to UMCP that dont want it and at the Univ of Maryland College Park, the allmighty dollar talks and all else walks. Let the donors get a hold of Loh and watch the position change.

  2. I prefer not to linger in the realm of conspiracy theories. I think you a) overestimate the influence and number of “big money donors” for a state school like UMD and b) underestimate the relative power that the governor’s office and his MTA can wield over a state institution. Nameless “big money donors” can’t change the reality that the purple line a)has tons of regional support that goed far beyond College Park and b) will never be realized without taking into account the reality of unchanging federal funding formulas.

  3. I hope you are right – but when the governor is “owned” by some of these big money donors and like most politicians, is merely their puppet (complete with the wealthy people’s hands very far up his keester) he too will cave. Look, the “romantacist” in me loves the thought of a campus dr alignment – its a wonderful dream……but the realist in me knows better and its a sad reality

Comments are closed.