Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Federal judge rules environmental study required for Maryland Purple Line project

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U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a ruling May 22 that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the state of Maryland conduct an environmental study before the planned Purple Line project can proceed.

Leon wrote in his opinion that FTA and Maryland "failed to take the requisite 'hard look' at the potential impact that [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's] ridership and safety issues could have on the Purple Line Project."

Leon said a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) would have provided more information on the potential impact of WMATA ridership and safety on the Purple Line project and ordered an SEIS be prepared "as expeditiously as possible."

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the ruling was disappointing, but not surprising.

"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.

"Moreover, the judge's concerns were thoroughly addressed by federal transit officials by studies already completed and in public testimony more than five months ago. Ultimately, this ruling completely ignores both federal and state transportation experts, as well as environmental advocates, who are strong proponents of the Purple Line.

"This is not a political issue – it's an important transportation and transit priority for Maryland and the region that has strong bipartisan support. The state will continue to pursue any and all legal action to ensure that the Purple Line will move forward," said Gov. Hogan.

The planned Purple Line is a 16-mile light-rail line with 21 stations that would extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George's County. It would provide a direct connection to WMATA's Red, Green and Orange Lines; at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton. The Purple Line would also connect to MARC, Amtrak and local bus services.