STATEMENT OF TOWN OF CHEVY CHASE MAYOR PATRICIA BURDAFEBRUARY 11, 2014
Much has been written recently, in the Washington Post and elsewhere, about the decision of the Town of Chevy Chase to engage the services of government relations professionals to communicate our position about the Purple Line to decision makers in Congress. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify several points.Prior to making a final decision about Town future actions regarding the Purple Line, the Town Council retained, for a period of two months, the firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. This firm has advised us on both legal and governmental strategies at the state and Federal level.
To set the record straight, the Town is speaking to Members of Congress to raise the same issues we raised with the Maryland Transportation Administration in our Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) comments. It is our hope that through this effort of educating decision makers about the currently proposed Purple Line, that the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) will carefully consider all of the facts before them.
Proponents of the Purple Line, including Action Committee for Transit (ACT), are attempting to distract from the obvious and abundant flaws in this project by focusing on a quote from me that was abbreviated and taken out of context. I was quoted in the Washington Post as saying “the Town is not lobbying Congress.” The statement, which I attempted to clarify before it reached the printed Sunday Post, referred specifically to an inquiry about lobbying the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I said that it would be foolish to try to lobby Congress to defund the project given Senator Mikulski’s position as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.Our goal is to convey to decision makers the significant concerns held by the majority of Town residents regarding the Purple Line as proposed. Keep in mind that the Purple Line currently under consideration looks nothing like the trolley line first considered more than 20 years ago. And, let me be clear – our concerns are real and justified.
In the four years we have been working with the state to address mitigation in the state’s narrowest right of way adjacent to our community, there are still major unresolved issues related to safety, noise and quality of life. More than 250 trains will pass less than 100 feet from some residences from 5 a.m. to as late as 3 a.m. going 45 miles per hour. The environmental degradation to the area due to the loss of all trees in the right of way will cause erosion, heat and groundwater runoff. The Town has no firm commitment that the 6-foot noise walls it has been promised will be built, and a safe crossing for students has yet to be successfully designed.
We may have to endure all this for a project that the Maryland Transportation Administration Environmental Impact Study has acknowledged will not reduce congestion or energy consumption. Perhaps even more troubling, the financial implications of this project will put residents throughout the state at risk for covering the payments to a new concessionaire associated with the Public Private Partnership for a project that has risen to over $2 billion ($1 billion more than originally planned). Add to these concerns the facts that the Purple Line will bypass the new Walter Reed facilities and thereby negatively impact veterans and their families, will eliminate the Capital Crescent Trail as a linear park used by 10,000+ walkers, joggers and bikers weekly, and will impact not one, but two environmentally protected species. The Purple Line project is not ready for prime time.
In an effort to ensure these concerns are addressed, we hired a firm that has deep industry knowledge of transit projects and a long history of dealing with related issues in regions such as ours. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney filed publicly-accessible paperwork as a standard procedural measure to ensure that the Town and the law firm are in full compliance with all ethics rules that govern our efforts on this project.