A coalition of 45 business leaders wrote to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao last week, urging her to finalize the Purple Line’s $900 million New Starts grant as soon as the project’s Record of Decision is reinstated by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon.
The letter was signed by developers with projects in both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, including JBG, the Bozzuto Group, Federal Realty, Carr Properties, and Urban Atlantic. Marriott International, which recently announced the relocation of its headquarters to a new 700,000 square foot “urban campus” in downtown Bethesda, also signed on. In addition, business organizations like the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Montgomery and Prince George’s Chambers of Commerce, representing hundreds of businesses and employers in the region, lent their names to this effort.
The letter points out that the Purple Line is a privately-financed, shovel-ready infrastructure project that will create thousands of jobs. In addition, it is only the second public-private transit project in the United States and its cancellation “would have a powerful negative impact on the ability to attract future private infrastructure investment.”
Purple Line Now President Ralph Bennett applauds the development and business community for speaking up for this project, which has been decades in the making. “The people of Maryland have waited far too long for the Purple Line to be built, and construction would have finally begun months ago were it not for a frivolous lawsuit filed by a group of Chevy Chase opponents who misuse the legal system to advance their own narrow self interest.” Bennett adds that “businesses know that the Purple Line is an investment in our region’s future that will pay off many times over in increased incomes, property values, and quality of life.”
The Purple Line was scheduled to begin construction in the fall of 2016, but was delayed by Judge Leon days before the Federal Transit Administration was scheduled to sign a $900 million grant for the project. The MTA and its private partner, the Purple Line Transit Partners, have been continuing work on right-of-way acquisition, design, and pre-construction surveys. However, before construction can begin, the judge must rule on an updated ridership analysis submitted in December at his request and then the FTA must sign the Full Funding Grant Agreement.
PLEASE mark your calendar for an important collaborative event that Purple Line NOW is organizing along with a coalition of organizations including Action Committee for Transit, CASA and the Fair Development Coalition, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sierra Club, and Washington Area Bicyclist Association. More organizations will be added as they accept our invitation.
We ask you to gather at the brand new downtown Silver Spring Library (900 Wayne Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910) at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2 for a press conference - media is invited. We are working on the program right now and will send updates as the event comes together, but we ask you to join us that morning to show your support to make sure we send a clear message that we want the Purple Line back on track.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a motion with U. S. District Judge Richard Leon yesterday requesting an expedited ruling and restoration of the Purple Line’s Record of Decision.
The Attorney General's request asks for a final judgment by April 28 on the five pending summary judgment motions in the lawsuit filed by the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, an ad hoc organization of Chevy Chase residents most of whom live near the proposed light rail route, against the Federal Transit Administration and Maryland Transit Administration. Since the turn of the twentieth century, this route was used as a freight rail line, which was then purchased by Montgomery County in the mid-1980s for the express purpose of establishing a passenger rail line between Bethesda and Silver Spring, with an adjacent walking and bicycling trail.
As an alternative, the motion asks Judge Leon to simply restore the Record of Decision for the project, which the judge vacated on August 3, 2016, four days before the state was to receive its $900 million Full Funding Grant Agreement. Without the Record of Decision or the federal grant, construction cannot begin on the Purple Line.
The motion notes that continued delay by the judge risks the Purple Line's future being settled by default rather than on its merits. According to the motion, further delay will cost the state $13 million per month, and up to $650 million if the project is abandoned. This amount includes hundreds of millions in State and Federal funds already invested, as well as termination costs "which could exceed $100 million" payable to the state’s private partner, which has been working on the project since the summer of 2016.
The fundamental strengths of the project have been demonstrated convincingly and repeatedly during the five-year public review process. The Purple Line will provide alternative mobility to residents in traffic-saturated Montgomery and Prince George's counties, complementing and reinforcing the Metro system. In the near term, it will create construction jobs and is already stimulating development and investment along the 16-mile route extending through both counties. In the longer term, it is estimated to generate billions of dollars in new growth and annual revenue for the state. These merits have already justified more than $400 million in existing state investment in the project, which will be jeopardized by further delay.
Purple Line NOW adds our voice to this request, and respectfully ask the court to honor the decisions made by the residents of Maryland and their bipartisan elected leaders over many years of debate and process, and allow the Purple Line to move forward.
Purple Line NOW, an advocacy organization that has been working for more than 20 years to get this project built, applauds the March 22nd letter sent by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, listing the Purple Line as a high priority for Maryland.
The Purple Line exemplifies the kind of project that the Trump administration has called for. It will create jobs, it is more than shovel ready, and it is funded through a public private partnership. We look forward to working with the Governor to see that the Federal Full Funding agreement is signed the moment the court-ordered delay has been lifted.
As Governor Hogan said in 2015 when he announced Maryland’s commitment to fund this project, “The Purple Line is a long-term investment that will be an important economic driver for Maryland … it will be a long-term asset to our state attracting businesses and making Maryland a better place to live and work ...” Maryland and the FTA have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Purple Line and developers and local governments are creating and implementing plans based on its construction.
Any move to further delay the Purple Line would deny relief to Marylanders desperate for east-west transportation alternatives, pull the rug out from under our business community, betray promises of investment in new infrastructure, and overturn the bipartisan choice of Maryland’s elected leaders.