The $2 billion Purple Line light rail project is on hold—perhaps indefinitely. WAMU reported that U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that federal transit officials will need to complete a “supplemental” environmental review that could take several months.
In a 12-page document, Leon wrote, “I find that defendants have failed to take the requisite ‘hard look’ at the potential impact that WMATA’s ridership and safety issues could have on the Purple Line Project and conclude for the following reasons that a [supplemental environmental impact statement] that addresses these issues is in fact required.”
In response, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan wrote a statement that said the ruling was “incredibly disappointing, but not entirely surprising.” He further added, “The fact that it took a federal judge this long to reach the conclusion that more study is needed is completely baffling and, if allowed to stand, will cause irreparable harm to this vital project and cost the state hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.”
The Purple Line is planned to run 16 miles between Prince George's and Montgomery counties. When it comes to federal funding, $900 million was raised for the project, while the public-private partnership established cost $5.6 billion, according to The Washington Post.
There is no certainty just yet as to whether or not Maryland will pursue an immediate appeal, but Hogan said, “The state will continue to pursue any and all legal action to ensure that the Purple Line will move forward.”
WAMU reported that John Fitzgerald, a Chevy Chase resident and plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in 2014, praised Leon’s decision by describing it as a “victory of substantive analysis over agency arrogance.”
Meanwhile, Maryland attorneys have petitioned a higher court to change Leon’s mind. Otherwise, the state will be unable to pay contractors starting June 1
With this delay and with the Trump administration’s FY2018 budget proposal, this could lead to the Purple Line project getting canceled.
• Judge says Purple Line needs more study of Metro’s ridership and safety issues [The Washington Post]
• Judge Leon rules against the Purple Line again [Greater Greater Washington]