The last two months have been tumultuous for the Purple Line and its advocates. We have gone from the threshold of a Full Funding Grant Agreement to being shunted to a side track by an August 3rd Court decision. However, on August 23rd, lawyers for Maryland and the Federal government requested that Judge Richard Leon reconsider his decision so as to prevent a manifest injustice.
Purple Line Now is not standing idly by, awaiting the Court's response. As part of our public education role, we have reviewed the filings of the Federal Transit Agency (FTA) and Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). We are happy to report that the case they make for putting us back on track for groundbreaking is evidence-rich and well-grounded in legal precedent. We summarize the legal case and the supporting evidence below. For those of you that want to dig deeper, we've also posted the documents online.
We know that many of you and your friends and neighbors have questions that aren't always answered by the press. We are sharing this summary with you to ensure that you have the case for the Purple Line at your fingertips.
Briefly, U.S. Attorney Tyler Burgess and MD Attorney General Frosh argue that Purple Line construction should be allowed to proceed and the FTA should be permitted to consider recent Metro events to determine whether a new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is necessary. The two arguments parallel one another with different emphases.
Maryland and the Federal Government do not seek to overturn the Judge's finding that the initial MTA and FTA response on Metrorail safety was "barebones." Instead, they argue that Court erred by requiring a new SEIS rather than remanding to the FTA. They cite variations of the settled precedent that “[w]hen an agency provides a statement of reasons insufficient to permit a court to discern its rationale ... the usual remedy is a ‘remand to the agency for additional investigation or explanation.’” By leaping to its ruling that a new SEIS was necessary, the Court violated the Administrative Procedure Act by “substitut[ing] its judgment for that of the agency.”
The two filings also argue that, in the meantime, the “Record of Decision” that the Purple Line should proceed should be reinstated. First, the included testimonies show a new SEIS will likely not be necessary and, second, the Judge's order introduces delays that cause harm and increase cost.
Supporting Testimonies and Exhibits:
Gregory Benz supervised the development of the Purple Line ridership estimates and explains the estimating process. He also conducts a new arithmetic analysis, showing that even an unrealistically large drop in Metro ridership would only reduce Purple Line ridership by 6.8%.
MTA's Charles Latucca oversees MTA's major capital projects and lays out the case for the Purple Line. After laying out the evidence of the fundamental strengths of the project, he details the current state of the project and the costs of delay to the Maryland residents and businesses as well as the State Government. Each month of delay is estimated to introduce $13 million in new costs.
Maryland also included a recent ruling on Beverly Hills Unified School District v. FTA. That case also involved the National Environmental Policy Act, and describes the high burden of proof that must be met before putting a hold on a project.
Lucy Garliauskas, Associated Administrator for Planning and Environment for the FTA, testified that the Purple Line's east-west connections provide significant benefits even setting aside ridership from the DC Metro.
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