Metro Board approves Purple Line land swap after public spat between officials

WASHINGTON — Purple Line construction will continue after the Metro Board approved a land swap Thursday that had prompted prolonged debate and name-calling.

The Metro Board voted 7 to 1, with federal Board Member Steve McMillin dissenting, to approve the land transfers at the New Carrollton, College Park and Silver Spring stations for the privately operated, state-controlled light rail line.

A Metro Board committee had questioned whether the state of Maryland was fairly compensating Metro for the land rights with a parking lot at New Carrollton.

And Jack Evans, Metro Board chairman and D.C. Council member, had threatened to hold up the deal unless Maryland agreed to stop blocking changes to the board’s committees and bylaws.

The bylaw changes and new committee assignments, along with several amendments that included removal of a proposal that would have extended Evans’s term as chair to July, were also approved Thursday. Maryland Board Member Keturah Harley abstained from the votes.

Evans current term as board chair is now due to expire in January.

“The board was doing its job, and sometimes when we do our job it doesn’t necessarily comport with what elected officials in the region want,” Evans said of the back and forth this month.

On Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had called Evans’s horse-trading extortion. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” that Evans makes “crazy” statements and that he’s asked Evans to “knock it off.”

“Sausage was made, and here we have it,” Evans said after the vote Thursday. “It all worked out for the best, and I’m very pleased at the outcome.”

Christian Dorsey, Arlington County Board and Metro Board member, said despite the “riveting theater” around the Purple Line land transfer, the real questions raised by the Metro Board that led to further analysis and revisions demonstrate the importance of the board carefully watching out for Metro’s best interests.

“As fiduciaries to WMATA, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be doing,” Dorsey said.

The board has been criticized in the past when members have put their individual jurisdiction’s interests ahead of what was best for Metro.

In this case, Metro management told the board that the noncash benefits for Metro, such as increased ridership, provide fair consideration as part of the land swap.

“From my perspective, I think the board engaged in exactly the kind of work that it ought to, it should very much meet the critics,” Dorsey said.

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