The Purple Line: What to expect and when

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By Jacob Schaperow, editor-in-chief, @jschap1

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Modification of the “M” traffic circle at Regents Drive and Campus Drive is one of the impacts MTA’s Purple Line will have during its five-year construction horizon. The light rail will cross Route 1 on the north side of fraternity row and run along Campus Drive. Jacob Schaperow/Mitzpeh

As a civil engineering major, I sometimes like to inform people around me of random civil engineering-related facts. From now on, I will research a planned or in-progress construction project on the campus each month and report on how it will affect students. The month’s feature is the much-anticipated Purple Line, the 16.2 mile light rail line (not Metro!) that is projected to be complete by 2021 and will run along Campus Drive.

One lane of Campus Drive has been closed since June 2014 to accommodate construction of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center. While it will open again briefly in December 2016, the campus’ main street will need to undergo similar closing when Purple Line construction begins. The revamped Campus Drive will ultimately have three lanes: two outer lanes for light rail and buses and a central lane for westbound automobiles.

The light rail, which costs $2.4 billion, according to Maryland Department of Transportation’s website, will have 21 stations from Bethesda in the west, connecting to Metro’s Red Line, to New Carrollton in the east, connecting to the Orange Line. The Purple Line will also connect to the Red Line in Silver Spring and to the Green Line in College Park. In addition to the main Purple Line, the project includes extension of the Capital Crescent trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring and the construction of a bike path along Campus Drive.

The light rail line will enter campus at the intersection of Adelphi Road and University Boulevard, next to University of Maryland, University College, follow Campus Drive past Stamp Student Union and the “M” circle at Regents Drive and cross Route 1 just north of Ritchie Coliseum.

There will be five stations in College Park: Adelphi Road/West Campus, Campus Center, East Campus, College Park – U of Md., and M-Square Research Park, next to the College Park Metro station.

Students will be able to ride for free between these five destinations with their university IDs, according to an agreement between the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents and Maryland Transit Administration this past month. The agreement also stipulates that trains will run at a maximum speed of 15 mph and construction on Campus Drive will pause during final exam periods.

Light rail cars run aboveground, in dedicated lanes or in mixed lanes with traffic. Typical stations have a platform, shelters, benches, and fare vending machines. Purple Line stations are projected to be about 200 feet long, according to MDOT’s Purple Line website.

While the Purple Line’s name might imply that it has something to do with the DC Metro, it will actually be built and operated as a public-private partnership, meaning MTA will select a contractor to build and operate the line, while maintaining ownership. Bids are due to MTA this month, and MTA will select a partner in early 2016. Construction will begin in 2016.

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This map shows where the Purple Line will travel through campus. Taken from purplelinemd.com

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