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Appeals Court Allows Purple Line to Proceed

A federal appeals court ruled Maryland officials don’t have to redo an environmental impact study, which allows construction on the Purple Line light-rail project to continue.

A three-panel judge at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit made the decision Tuesday, based on court filings that began three years ago.

Construction began in August after a court ruled work on the estimated $5.6 billion project 16-mile light-rail project that would connect with four Metro stations in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties can begin during the appeals process.

According to Tuesday’s appeal court opinion written by Judge Judith W. Rogers, a decline in Metro ridership wouldn’t affect the Purple Line’s ridership numbers. In addition, Rogers said the opponents, or Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail of Bethesda criticized projection figures “without offering ridership numbers of their own.”

Rogers wrote “the court’s analysis is flawed” based on a decision made last year by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon for the Maryland Transit Administration to update an environmental study and the Federal Transit Administration to provide more information.

Maryland Rep. Anthony Brown (at podium), speaks during an Aug. 28 groundbreaking in Hyattsville for the Purple Line light-rail project in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

“Even if Metrorail ceased to exist — an extreme and highly unlikely scenario given its centrality to transportation in the greater Washington metropolitan area — light rail would still provide faster (and higher-capacity) east–west connections between major Maryland activity centers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties than would other alternatives, like bus rapid transit,” he wrote. “Light rail also would promote new economic opportunities in the underserved low income and minority communities located between those centers, and provide better connections to non-Metrorail regional transit options, including the MARC train, the Amtrak railroad and local bus routes.”

The Maryland Transit Administration will oversee the project to build 21 stations from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County. Four stations will connect as transfer stations with Metro’s Orange, Green and Red lines. It’s scheduled to open in within five years.

Meanwhile, a second lawsuit filed by Friends of the Crescent Trail and two Montgomery County residents is pending in District Court. It claims the federal government improperly examined the project, especially since it committed $900 million toward it.

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