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.
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