Federal Appeals Court Sets Expedited Schedule for Purple Line Lawsuit
Oral arguments in the case could take place this fall
A briefing schedule is set for the Purple Line lawsuit appeal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday granted Maryland’s request for an expedited briefing schedule, bringing the case closer to a possible conclusion.
The court already granted Maryland and the Federal Transit Administration—the defendants in the case—a reprieve in July by restoring the proposed light-rail project’s federal approval, which had been revoked last August by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon.
By restoring the approval, the court enabled Maryland to pursue the full funding grant agreement with the federal government that would allow the state to access part of the $900 million in federal funds proposed for the project.
It’s not clear when or if that agreement will be signed. It requires the approval of the federal Department of Transportation. State officials have said the money is needed to finance the project’s estimated $2 billion construction cost.
Leon also had ordered the Federal Transit Administration and Maryland to conduct a new environmental study on the project to determine if Metro’s ridership decline and safety issues would affect ridership on the Purple Line. The state and the FTA are appealing that order.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the case—two Town of Chevy Chase residents and the trail advocacy group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail—are appealing Leon’s decision against them on a number of environmental and noise-related issues they raised in his court.
The Court of Appeals ordered the state and FTA to file their briefs arguing their case by Aug. 18. The plaintiffs have until Sept. 8 to file their briefs, according to the schedule released by the court.
The court order notes that the clerk will schedule a date for oral arguments “on the first appropriate date after the completion of the briefing.” The tight schedule could mean the case—which has wound its way through the federal court system since first being filed in 2014—is approaching an end.
The proposed 16.2-mile light-rail project would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton in Prince George’s County and is a top transportation priority in the state.