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.
You may have heard the news...
Last week, Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail - the organization whose frivolous lawsuit has stalled the Purple Line since last August - filed a claim asking the Federal Government to pay their attorney's fees - a cost of more than $500,000. The group is also planning a major fundraiser this weekend to support the lawsuit that has brought the project to a standstill for over 205 days.
Folks - the facts are, because of this lawsuit, the project is losing valuable time that could incur significant additional expenses (up to $13 million a month) for you, the taxpayer, to pay. The delaying action from the plaintiffs has already stalled hiring for construction jobs and risks delay of opening day. In addition, Purple Line NOW has put the popular Envisioning the Purple Line Series on hold until a judgment is rendered, which has hampered our own fundraising efforts.We now have only enough funding for two more months of operating costs.
In contrast to the opposition, Purple Line NOW is a shoestring operation - we exist on about $1,000 a month for all of our expenses, which includes bringing the well-regarded and informative Envisioning the Purple Line series to you, employing one part time staff member, and managing a board and team that meets several times a month to strategize and engage the larger community.
We need your help to keep the project and its enormous benefits in the public eye until the delay ends - at which time we can hit the ground running with an exciting new slate of community gatherings to help make the project the best it can be. In the meantime, we continue to work behind the scenes to ensure the train gets moving again - for example, just last week, we committed to support the Purple Line Corridor Coalition to help mitigate the disruption which construction may cause and to help assure the best outcomes for everyone affected by the project.
Purple Line NOW has been active and committed to the project for more than 15 years, and many of you have given your elbow grease, knowledge, and funds to see the project become a reality for even longer than that.
We are SO close.
Please help us confront the well-funded opposition to this vital project - your contribution is essential. Giving is simple, just click here to Donate. Here are some suggestions, but any amount is helpful:
· $205 = representing the 205 days the project has been on hold
· $15 = a dollar for each year Purple Line NOW has been hard at work
· Or, consider a Sponsorship. Your name (or your company's name) will be listed in all event literature and marketing.
Every bit helps and no amount is too small. Thank you for your consideration.
Members of the Executive Committee
Silver Spring, MD - A frivolous lawsuit by opponents has kept the Purple Line on hold since August 3rd of 2016, more than half a year ago! In issuing that stay, the Court cited its dissatisfaction with the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) one paragraph answer to its question on the implications of Metrorail’s safety and ridership challenges. Both the FTA and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) have listened to United States District Court Judge Richard Leon’s concern and thoroughly addressed this question, examining five different ridership scenarios, looking at questions such as ride-hailing services, and presenting ample evidence that the Purple Line fills a dire need for east-west transportation alternatives regardless of the state of Metrorail.
Last fall, the Court acknowledged the principle that decisions on whether more studies are necessary "'requires a high level of technical expertise’ that would benefit from the ‘informed discretion of the responsible federal agencies.”’ The federal and state experts have laid out an open and shut case and the plaintiffs, despite being granted an extension, simply rehashed tired, unsupported, and irrelevant arguments. We commend the court for rejecting the plaintiffs’ further stalling tactics, but all the arguments were submitted by January 13th. We call on the Court to rule as expeditiously as possible, to mitigate the cost of the delay.
The risks of further delay are mounting. The concessionaire and the MTA have worked very hard to bring the project to the very brink of construction. Engineers have advanced designs, teams have been out in the community conducting soil borings, and initial permits are in place pending the restoration of the record of decision. The upside is that the project could not be more shovel ready and early signs show that it remains on the infrastructure shortlist for the new administration. The downside is that further construction delay may impose significant added costs. This lawsuit is only the latest instance of stalling tactics that have prevented better east-west connections for decades and that may push back the March 2022 start date. The Purple Line will add resilience to Metrorail and bring relief to our region’s workers, students, and shoppers. We call on Judge Leon, for the sake of our community, to allow Maryland to Build the Purple Line, Now!