Court Ruling Could Have A Chill Effect on Purple Line Project

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said he couldn’t “turn a blind eye to the recent extraordinary events involving seemingly endless Metrorail breakdowns and safety issues.”

📅   Thu August 04, 2016 - Northeast Edition


Construction of the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs could be delayed based on a federal judge's ruling Wednesday requiring that the project's ridership forecasts be redone
Construction of the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs could be delayed based on a federal judge's ruling Wednesday requiring that the project's ridership forecasts be redone

The Washington Post is reporting that Construction of the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs could be delayed based on a federal judge's ruling Wednesday requiring that the project's ridership forecasts be redone to account for Metro's deterioration and declining ridership.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon ordered that the Maryland Transit Administration's “record of decision” on the Purple Line — the federal stamp of approval on the project's environmental analysis — be set aside until the state recalculates the ridership projections done for that study.

Leon said he couldn't “turn a blind eye to the recent extraordinary events involving seemingly endless Metrorail breakdowns and safety issues.”

The Purple Line will not be part of Metro, but it will connect to four Metro stations, and more than a quarter of the Purple Line's riders are expected to be Metro passengers feeding into the light-rail system. The lawsuit before Leon was brought by Purple Line opponents who said state and federal agencies had given short shrift to the line's potential environmental impacts.

Leon wrote that the Federal Transit Administration showed a “cavalier attitude” when it argued that Metro's safety lapses and falling ridership — which he called “serious issues” — will not affect the Purple Line because it will be separately owned and operated. Metro's problems, the judge said, pose “serious questions” about the Purple Line's “future viability.”

The FTA's dismissal of Metro's potential impact on Purple Line ridership “raises troubling concerns about their competence as stewards of nearly a billion dollars of federal taxpayers' funds,” he said.

Maryland is seeking $900 million in federal transit construction aid for the 16.2-mile line. Major construction had been scheduled to begin late this fall.

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