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.
Do you still have questions or did you notice something we missed? Please let us know at [email protected].
Mark your calendar for Purple Line NOW's third forum in our Envisioning the Purple Line Series called "The Denver Eagle Commuter Rail Lines: A Successful Public/Private Partnership Project" on Thursday, September 29, from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.
Purple Line NOW is delighted to present Brian Middleton, Project Director for the Regional Transportation District's FasTracks Eagle P3 commuter rail project in Denver, the first such P3 in the country. He will give an overview of how a successful P3 project works and describe how his team made it happen in their city. Brian is the go-to subject matter expert on all things Eagle P3. He has worked on transit projects across the globe, initially serving as the contractor’s project manager on projects including P3s. After moving to the United States 20 years ago, he supported transit agencies across the nation with Design-Build (DB) and Design-Build-Operate-Maintain (DBOM) projects prior to moving to Denver to lead the Eagle P3 project. As an added bonus, Brian has worked with Fluor for many years - the same concessionaire chosen to build and operate the Purple Line.
Special Note: This event is free and open to the public, but you must register in advance as space is limited. Your name will be held at the registration desk when you arrive at the event. You'll remember we had a waiting list for seating at our last forum and we anticipate a crowd for this forum, as well. If you would like to bring a guest, please RSVP for them separately - only one guest per registration. We hope you are enjoying this innovative series!
Two other important items for our Purple Line NOW supporters:
1) Many of you have questions about how the recent federal ruling and temporary delay will affect the project going forward. We are working hard to get answers for you, so please stay tuned to Purple Line NOW for information as we move forward. Purple Line NOW fully expects the fundamentals of the project will be once again validated, putting the Purple Line back on track. In that light, we are excited to bring you an expert who has created a successful Public Private Partnership (P3) in another city.
2) We rely on your donations to continue this series of informative forums - your generosity in recent weeks in light of the ruling has been so appreciated! If you haven't yet become a sponsor of the Envisioning the Purple Line series, please consider doing so. This signature series is an ideal opportunity to connect with project stakeholders, as well as key leaders and community organizers. For more information or to join our terrific list of sponsors, please visit our Sponsorship Page or contact Christine Scott, Executive Director, [email protected].
Thanks to our many sponsors who make this series possible. We are grateful to all of our donors who keep our train running. We hope to see you on September 29!
August 9, 2016
The Honorable Pete K. Rahn
Maryland Department of Transportation
7201 Corporate Center Drive
Hanover, MD 21076
Dear Secretary Rahn:
As a coalition of organizations that strongly supports the Purple Line, we want to thank you for your continued commitment to the Purple Line. We were very disappointed in the recent court ruling vacating the project’s Record of Decision and ordering the Maryland Transit Administration to conduct a supplemental EIS. Coming only four days before the anticipated signing of the Full Funding Grant Agreement, this decision was obviously a surprise and a setback. Like you, we are deeply concerned that further delays in this long-anticipated and essential transit project may imperil it.
As you know, the Purple Line will create a vital and necessary east-west transit link through the Maryland suburbs, connecting employers and workers, encouraging investment in new transit-oriented development, and creating thousands of new jobs. In addition, the completion of the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring, which is being built in conjunction with the Purple Line, will provide a safe and reliable route for pedestrians and bicyclists. For these reasons, we applauded Governor Hogan’s decision to move forward with the Purple Line. We know the decision was not made lightly, and that you worked closely with him to ensure that the project can be completed in a cost-effective manner.
We need the Purple Line now more than ever and do not believe that further study is necessary to demonstrate why it is one of the FTA’s most highly-rated transit projects. In fact, there is every reason to believe that Metro’s renewed commitment to improved performance and its SafeTrack program, which will be completed over the coming year, will result in increased Metro ridership well in advance of the Purple Line’s anticipated opening in five years.
For these reasons, we were very encouraged by your decision to appeal this flawed ruling and would like to offer our continued support and assistance to you and the Maryland Transit Administration to ensure that the Purple Line can move forward without further delay. Once again, thanks to you and your team at the MTA for all your hard work on this issue.
Ralph Bennett, President
Purple Line Now
Greg Billing, Executive Director
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Ronit Dancis, President
Action Committee for Transit
Daniel G. Waetjen, Chairman
Greater Washington Board of Trade
Georgette Godwin, President and CEO
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
David Harrington, President and CEO
Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce
Ginanne M. Italiano, IOM, President and CEO
The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce
Jane Redicker, IOM, President and CEO
Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director
Coalition for Smarter Growth
cc: The Honorable Barbara Mikulski, U. S. Senator
The Honorable Ben Cardin, U.S. Senator
The Honorable Christopher Van Hollen, U.S. Congressman
Governor Larry Hogan
Craig Williams, Chief of Staff to Governor Hogan
Roy C. McGrath, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Hogan
Joseph Getty, Legislative Director to Governor Hogan
Adam Dubitsky, Policy Director to Governor Hogan
Mark Newgent, Deputy Policy Director to Governor Hogan
Charles Lattuca, Maryland Transit Administration, Executive Director
Montgomery County Delegation
Prince George's County Delegation
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Councilmembers
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and County Councilmembers