What to Watch for the Purple Line, 2nd Edition:
The Purple Line received a long deserved reprieve on July 19 when the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia (the “appellate court”) stayed the lower court injunction that had been holding up the project. We’ve also received other good news in the past two weeks, but the project has not yet received federal funding or broken ground. As legal language and budgetary buzzwords fly by with each new development, it can be difficult to follow how everything fits together. This series is intended to synthesize the news for advocates and fans of the project who may not be able to track every development in the papers, on PurpleLineNow.com, on facebook, or on twitter.
Will the Appellate Court Place a Stay on Judge Leon’s Injunction?
Yes! The appellate court ruled that the “State of Maryland has satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal. ” In what Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders called a “joyous day,” Judge Leon’s injunction was put on hold. This action by the appellate court allows Maryland to begin construction and pursue a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that would provide $900 million in support over several years.
Will the Schedule for the Appeal be Expedited?
The stay is important, but it is also a temporary measure during the pendency of the appeal. Maryland has proposed an expedited schedule for the appeal, but that timetable was held up by the opponents’ stalling tactics in the District Court. Thankfully, Judge Leon threw out frivolous claims based on noise and environmental issues, clearing the way for the appeal to proceed. The appellate court is expected to set a schedule soon. If it follows Maryland’s proposed schedule, filings will be submitted over several weeks with possible oral arguments scheduled shortly thereafter.
Will the money be there?
The Trump Administration, in direct violation of infrastructure pledges during the campaign, had sought massive cuts in federal transit spending. They folded on that effort for the current fiscal year, and the omnibus compromise included specific set asides for the Purple Line. We learned on July 27th that the Senate version of the transportation funding plan for next fiscal year includes another $100 million for the Purple Line, which would bring the total authorized funding to $425 million. Thanks to Maryland’s Congressional delegation for these efforts; we’re counting on them to make sure the funding is included in the final budget.
When will the FTA sign the full funding grant agreement?
This is the largest remaining question. We were only days away from the signing ceremony nearly a year ago when the injunction came down down. FTA experts have praised the Purple Line, and the Federal government joined forces with Maryland in support of the appeal. Gov. Hogan asked Transportation Secretary Chao for support back in March and Senator Van Hollen met with the Secretary this Monday to urge support. We will keep pressing the case, noting our bipartisan support, the administration’s praise of our public-private partnership approach, and that regional business leaders and labor unions stand united behind the project.
"We are encouraged, but not surprised, that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the Purple Line's environmental approval pending appeal," Purple Line NOW President Ralph Bennett said in a statement following the ruling this afternoon, elaborating, "this ruling does not just remove the legal obstacle that has wasted 11 months and countless millions, it is also a vote of confidence in the merit of the Purple Line's case. As the court noted in its order, contrary to Judge Leon's earlier ruling 'the State of Maryland has satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal.'"
Purple Line NOW Treasurer Tina Slater discussed what comes next. "The Federal Transit Administration had been only days away from a signing ceremony on a Full Funding Grant Agreement when the project was put on an unwarranted hold. We were heartened when the FTA joined the appeal and hope they will quickly execute the Purple Line's Full Funding Grant Agreement, so construction can begin without further costly delays. Thanks to our Congressional Delegation, the money for the project remains available, and we trust that along with Governor Hogan, they will see the project through the remaining federal steps to groundbreaking."
The stay allows movement forward, but does not completely resolve the final appeal. Purple Line NOW Vice President Greg Sanders added, "The plaintiffs had filed more frivolous motions at the district court level that mean that we do not yet know the briefing schedule for the final decision. However, by restoring the record of decision, the court has signaled that Maryland's relief does not need to wait on the resolution of these questions. The final decision is, of course, still important, but we trust that Maryland's case will prevail on the merits.
We bring you a special edition of Purple Line NOW news today! We'd like you to meet our Executive Committee and see why you have the most committed, enthusiastic, and generous group of volunteers working on behalf of the Purple Line. A few facts you may not know about them:
1) The Executive Committee meets every single month, rain or shine, snow or otherwise - and have been doing so for many years! Those meetings are used to share updates of the project, set strategy for moving forward, and make sure the calendar is covered for all Purple Line related meetings and gatherings.
2) The members of the Executive Committee - each and every one of them - gives an immeasurable amount of time each month to activities outside of PLN meetings to make sure the project stays forefront in the eyes of the public, elected officials, and MTA. In fact, most of their volunteer hours are spent in committees, testifying before councils, attending project updates, and visiting elected officials, along with maintaining a social media presence, speaking to the press, giving interviews, and writing articles.
3) Each and every member of our Executive Committee gives generously to our work out of their own pockets. As most of you know, Purple Line NOW is notunderwritten by developers or any other corporate entity. We exist because folks like you and our board members give both time and financial resources to see this project become reality.
Because we are at a standstill while we await the appeals process to make its way through the Circuit Court, Purple Line NOW has been waiting to continue the Envisioning the Purple Line series - an excellent opportunity for the public to keep abreast of the project through a series of forums which also serves as an important fundraiser to keep our doors open and our work ongoing.
We reach out to you once again to help us through what we hope will be a quick resolution to the delay in the project. Take a moment to read the bios of some very dedicated volunteers below and then join them in giving generously to Purple Line NOW as you are able.
I moved to Montgomery County in 1946 (I was 6) and have lived here with gaps since. As a YIMBY and architect, I have been involved with affordable housing since 1980 including building and as Chair and Commissioner of the Housing Opportunities Commission. The nexus of housing and transportation in affordable living is as obvious as [read more]
I grew up along with the Purple Line, creating Lego models of the Georgetown Branch, helping to clean up the right of way, distributing literature for supportive candidates, and scripting websites. I joined the board as Secretary in 2010 after my father passed away, like too many early supporters, before he could see the project through to completion. I donate my time because I have witnessed [read more]
While I always figured transit was a good idea, I didn’t have my eyes opened until we moved to downtown Silver Spring in 2005. The first thing we did was ditch one of our two cars --- walking, biking, the bus and Metro were now viable options. Then we heard about the Purple Line and found out that [read more]
I joined the Board of Purple Line, NOW in 2008 when Harry Sanders suggested my experience with non-profit administration and advocacy would be helpful to the cause. I'm from Portland, Oregon and I go back every year to visit family there. I have seen the transformation that [read more]
I moved to Silver Spring with my family in 2001, after having lived in Chicago where we rode the El almost every day. I took one look at the Metro map and instantly [read more]
I have been involved since its inception in the mid 80's as the Georgetown Branch project for a trolley and trail Bethesda to Silver Spring. My husband, Harry, was one of the two people that pushed the Montgomery County Council to [read more]
I have been the part-time Executive Director of Purple Line NOW since October 2009 when I was hired by the wonderful Harry Sanders, Nancy Soreng, and Wayne Phyilliaer who were looking to take some of the administrative load off volunteer leadership as the project got closer to ground-breaking. My experience as an ED for other nonprofit organizations lent itself to the administrative aspect of the job, but learning the language of transit took a bit longer! Fortunately, I had the folks above to lead the way with their knowledge and guidance as we all pushed forward.
Nearly eight years later, this group hasn't lost a beat. I'm fortunate to watch how they mesh tenacity with a reasoned approach and I can tell you, as someone who has worked with many nonprofit boards along the way, we have some of the most dedicated folks you'll come across - all determined to finally see the Purple Line realized for all of us who live, work, and play in our community.
Please, join the folks above - get involved, come to a meeting, and help us stay on track by making a donation to Purple Line NOW.
This is a tense and frustrating period for the Purple Line. We have high hopes for the appeal of Judge Leon’s illogical decision, but any judicial debates amongst the D.C. Circuit Court judges will appropriately be secret until a decision is announced. Nonetheless, for advocates, there are issues to watch that will help us understand and explain to friends and neighbors what is happening, and by so doing, to keep hope for this needed project alive.
Will the Appeals Court Place a Stay on Judge Leon’s Injunction?
As the Washington Post opined, Judge Leon’s ruling against the Purple Line is “shot through with illogic and heedless of precedent” and “is an excellent candidate for reversal on appeal.” Specifically, as reported in Bethesda Magazine, the court violated the Supreme Court’s warning against substituting a judge’s personal opinion for that of federal experts. Maryland has asked the appellate court to place a stay on Judge Leon’s ruling and reinstate the project’s environmental approval. This would not be the final decision on the appeal, but would allow Maryland to pursue the full funding grant agreement it was on the verge of receiving from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) before the district court’s intervention.
Will the Schedule for the Appeal be Expedited?
The stay is important, because Maryland laid out challenges to paying for the Purple Line without planned federal aid, challenges that may come to a head in August. That said, a stay would be a temporary measure during the pendency of the appeal. Maryland has proposed an expedited schedule for the appeal, with briefs due from the parties between July 20th to August 24th, and possible oral arguments shortly thereafter. The next news on the case may be whether the court accepts this schedule or lays out a longer timeline.
Will the money be there?
The Trump Administration, in direct violation of infrastructure pledges during the campaign, had sought massive cuts in federal transit spending. They folded on that effort for the current fiscal year, and the omnibus compromise included specific set asides for the Purple Line, which now has $325 million in funds appropriated for it. However, this will be an ongoing fight as the latest bill out of the House would again reduce funding for new transit projects in the next fiscal year. We’ll need our Congressional delegation to continue to persevere to make sure that funding is included in the final budget.
Purple Line NOW is staying abreast of all of these decisions and will bring you breaking news as it occurs. The best way to get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep a keen eye on our website for all breaking news. We need your financial support now more than ever as we work hard to keep the project front and center in the eyes of our elected officials, the community at large, and all who have a stake in the success of the project. Please consider a donation to Purple Line NOW to help us continue that work. Thank you!