New Purple Line Alignment a Relief to Many
Six businesses along Kenilworth Avenue will be spared under the plan, which would route trains down the middle of the road.
A little after 7 p.m., Pat Rinaldi scurried into her seat at Thursday night’s Purple Line forum. She’d donned a red polo shirt with Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl logo stamped in the upper left corner, as if to advocate for her alley's survival.
She’d heard rumblings that the light rail’s proposed route on Kenilworth Avenue had changed, sparing the bowling alley her father built in 1960. But she wanted to hear it firsthand.
Michael Madden, the Maryland Transit Administration's manager on the Purple Line study, clicked to a slide labeled “new option review,” and Rinaldi sighed with relief. Her business, along with five others, would be saved.
“Oh my gosh, it’s been a rollercoaster. I’ve been in business, I’m out of business, I’m in business, and then I’m out of business,” she said. “It’s been very emotionally straining. Really, I’m just thrilled, happy as can be to know that I can take a deep breath and go ‘business as usual’ now.”
Since the announcement last year that the $1.93 billion Purple Line would run down the west side of Kenilworth Avenue, taking nine businesses with it, many residents and community organizations rallied for an alignment change.
About two dozen gathered in Riverdale Park’s town hall Thursday as MTA officials said they had worked with Prince George’s County and the Maryland State Highway Administration to revise the plan.
“We want to serve the community, so we don’t want to displace anything that makes the community what it is,” said Harriet Levine of the MTA's Purple Line team.
The light rail will now move up and down the center of Kenilworth Avenue, replacing the median and one southbound lane, Madden said. The MTA will also narrow lanes—a process called a road diet—to make way for the Purple Line, he said. Studies performed in the past few weeks indicated the change would not increase traffic.
The three businesses that may still be displaced are Image 1 Hair Design at 6202 Kenilworth Ave., Sophisticat Gallery (art gallery) at 6200 Kenilworth Ave., and Superior Tax at 6120 Kenilworth Ave., according to MTA Purple Line community liaison Nolan Levenson.
The six businesses spared under the new plan are the Korean Church at 6410 Kenilworth Ave., Pollo Fiesta at 6408 Kenilworth Ave., Tires R Us at 6328 Kenilworth Ave., Rinaldi’s Riverdale Bowl at 6322 Kenilworth Ave., Flor de Puebla Bakery and other businesses at 6300 Kenilworth Ave, and the Wendy's at 6210 Kenilworth Ave., according to Levenson.
After the presentation, residents asked MTA officials questions in rapid-fire succession. Will the entrances to the businesses be blocked? (No.) Will the light rail’s alignment change again? (Not significantly.) Are there enough funds to start construction? (Not yet.)
When the Q&A ended, residents split into two groups to look at the proposed route map. Many praised the new alignment, while some worried about the lack of parking and pedestrian access to the Riverdale Park station. Others asked about the possibility of adding a park-and-ride or kiss-and-ride.
Leonard Miller, a Lanham resident who’s lived near Kenilworth Avenue most of his life, said he’s still skeptical. Where are commuting residents going to park if there’s no designated lot, he asked?
“I know no one is a whiz at this,” he said, “but there’s just some things they’re leaving out.”
But Lenny Wertz, president of the Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization Community Development Corporation, said his concern for the businesses has been put to rest. Now he’s on board with the Purple Line and said he hopes others will be, too.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of change,” he said. “My concern is that there’s too many who have a fear of change.”