University students weigh in on the Purple Line

The Purple Line’s Campus Center stop will be in front of Stamp Student Union. Photo by Pablo Roa

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The Purple Line project — a light rail that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County — is in motion, and University of Maryland students and community members have a variety of feelings toward the line’s construction.

According to its official website, the line will be 16.2 miles long and reach 21 stations, reaching four stops in College Park, three of which — Adelphi Road/West Campus, Campus Center and East Campus — have not been built yet.

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn expressed his unwavering support for the project over the phone.

“It’ll really help improve our transportation network,” said Wojahn, who is also a Purple Line board member. “We struggle constantly with congestion, and that helps on Baltimore Avenue.”

The benefits extend beyond relieving traffic congestion, though, Wojahn noted.

“[It will] help with economic revitalization in our downtown area and bring more jobs to our community,” he said. “It hasn’t even really been a debate for us because it’s such a no-brainer.”

Sophomore Ryan Young, who is a commuter student, claimed he would “probably never drive” if the Purple Line were active today because he lives within walking distance of Bethesda Metro station.

“It’s too bad that I won’t get to use it,” Young said. “Right now, there’s no way of getting over there without taking like an hour-long metro ride or driving.”

Senior Kehinde Raji, who works at Stamp Student Union, said he’s excited for the new line to be built. He believes the new Metro line will bring more people to the area, especially to Stamp.

“I’m for it because, with more people, means more hours; more hours means more money. And so I can go to school without suffering,” he said.

However, the project is scheduled for completion by 2022, so many students who won’t be around to reap the benefits — including junior civil engineering major Cameron Spruill— are concerned about the project’s short-term effect on the university. While he noted the positives of a connected transportation system, Spruill said the Purple Line’s overall impact isn’t worth it to him.

“It’s [going to] be right in front of Stamp, which means like years of construction. That’s gonna be ugly,” he said.

Spruill said he is also disappointed that the project will move the “M” from the center of the traffic circle near the university’s entrance.

“It’s [going to] move the ‘M’ circle in front of the Mitchell Building, which I also really hate, because the ‘M’ circle is so iconic,” Spruill said.

Wojahn said that the Purple Line board is not concerned about moving the ‘M.’

“To me, that’s really a university issue. It’s not something that the city weighs in on,” Wojahn said.  “The ‘M’ will still be on campus and in a very prominent location, so I’m not particularly worried about it.”

While, according to the mayor, the city has consistently taken unanimous positions in support of the Purple Line, he agrees there are still concerns that need to be addressed.

“[The] biggest concern and the thing we have to watch out for is the prospect of gentrification and the increase in property values that come with transit,” Wojahn said. “We don’t want it to push out existing residents or existing businesses.”

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