The Council is considering a $360,000, 18-month contract with a law firm. It will hold a public hearing at its Wednesday, Jan. 8 meeting on that proposal.
The Town has long been opposed to the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) route for the 16-mile light rail. It would go from Bethesda to New Carrollton and run part of the light rail system behind Town of Chevy Chase homes on the existing Georgetown Branch Trail.
In its comments to the MTA on the state’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Town said the “skyrocketing” in cost estimates since 2007 means the state should start the route selection process over. The MTA chose the route in 2009 in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
It hopes to start construction on the estimated $2.1 billion system in 2015, but a number of critical steps remain.
“A DEIS with flawed cost information, and a subsequent project selection based upon flawed (cost) information, can only be repaired at the draft level rather than in a final environmental impact statement since the FEIS only compared the selected project with a ‘no build option,’” Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Pat Burda said when the FEIS was published.
The MTA estimated the project would cost $1 billion in 2007 and $1.5 billion in 2009.
The Town’s comments, which include detailed critiques of the FEIS technical reports, say the state never adequately evaluated the bus rapid transit option for the project. The Town also says the FEIS should be required to name specific properties where trees will be lost. Since the FEIS was published, Purple Line opposition has also cited the existence of an endangered, shrimp-like creature in Rock Creek that the FEIS doesn’t mention. MTA officials said that’s because wildlife officials have never seen it in Maryland streams.
The Town has a budget surplus of about $8 million, with which it’s debating what to do. A shuttle service to downtown Bethesda was nixed, a request for a $230,000 donation to the B-CC Rescue Squad was cut to $60,000 and there is little consensus on the expensive prospect of undergrounding power lines.
The $360,000 proposal drew some immediate criticism from transit advocates, including Bethesda resident and Purple Line supporter Ben Ross:
Town of Chevy Chase refuses to meet with state for 7 months, then hires $360k lawyers to ensure its concerns are considered by state
— Benjamin Ross (@BenRossTransit) January 1, 2014
The public hearing will be part of the Council’s meeting on Wednesday, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall (4301 Willow Lane). There will also be a public hearing on a revised contribution policy, an issue which came up during the Council’s public hearing on the B-CC Rescue Squad donation.
Rendering via MTA