April 04, 2018
Lyttonsville, MLK and The Purple Line
by Joel Rubin
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, when he was killed for fighting for economic justice and racial equality, the Purple Line Transit Partners (PLTP) held a community meeting with Lyttonsville residents to discuss the impact that Purple Line construction would have on their community. And judging by last night’s meeting, at which I was the only publicly elected official to attend, we still have a long way to go in Maryland to meet Dr. King’s dream of economic justice.
Specifically, the PLTP and its overseer, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), announced that they were going to shut down the Lyttonsville Place Bridge for six months, which would be in addition to the already closed Talbot Avenue Bridge, which was recently closed due to structural deficiencies. And the alternative route for the predominantly African-American residents? A re-routing of traffic through a condensed area connecting Stewart Avenue to Kansas Avenue. The result would be a choking off of the community from the surrounding neighborhoods and thoroughfares, resulting in heightened traffic jams and limited pedestrian and bicycling routes, potentially causing deep harm to the residents and businesses located there.
Needless to say, the residents were not amused. Not only does this re-route create the potential for significant traffic jams, but it will also increase the difficulty of emergency services to access the community, will disconnect many of the local businesses - such as Silver Stars Gymnastics that employs 110 people - from their clients, and will increase the likelihood of additional environmental degradation. Most troubling, these problems were foreseen by the Purple Line planners and supporters, who included a Technical Provision of the remediation agreement governing the implementation of the Purple Line that stated that “The Lyttonsville Place Bridge may not be closed while the Talbot Avenue Bridge is closed.”
So why are the PLTP and MTA violating their agreement, one which had required a better, safer set of routes into and out of Lyttonsville ...? Or has it been granted a waiver to do so? And if so, by whom? By the Trump Administration’s Transportation Department? And if so, why? And can that change be appealed and by whom? No answers to these key questions were provided to the community last night.
Clearly more work needs to be done now to address the community’s concerns. Just as we’ve experienced in my town, The Town of Chevy Chase, where I sit on the Town Council and have publicly grappled with the issue of the Purple Line’s impact on our communities, there’s a lot of room for improvement in how the PLTP and the MTA work with the communities directly affected by the construction of this mega-project. Residents expect the construction to proceed effectively, but we also expect the PLTP to live up to its commitments and to take all actions possible to ensure that our quality of life is protected and preserved. That is what was promised by the PLTP, and that is the standard against which it should be held.
Please direct inquiries to Chris Robinson, 202-759-2897, firstname.lastname@example.org