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.