Plaintiffs Celebrate Purple Line Decision While Transit Advocates Condemn It

Maryland transportation chief says state will appeal ruling by federal judge


Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail President Ajay Bhatt during a 2014 event.

Aaron Kraut

Updated at 2:20 p.m. - Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn says the state will appeal the ruling made Wednesday by a federal judge that vacates federal approval of the Purple Line light-rail project and requires the state to conduct another ridership study.

“We are deeply disappointed that this puts the Purple Line in jeopardy,” Rahn said in a statement. “We will work closely with the Attorney General to seek a quick decision from the court of appeals.”

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, a group led by Chevy Chase residents that was a plaintiff in the case, celebrated U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s decision, tweeting:

The group's goal is to save the Capital Crescent Trail, the former railroad that was converted into a pedestrian and bicycle path and that runs through Bethesda and Chevy Chase. Montgomery County purchased the right-of-way with the goal of putting a transit system there.

While plans call for the existing trail to be replaced by a new one to run alongside the light-rail tracks, the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail group says the loss of existing trees will effectively mean the destruction of a much-needed park:

Leon’s ruling, however, had nothing to do with the environmental impacts of the Purple Line. The state and its selected team of private contractors hoped to break ground on the project later this year. In court filings, attorneys for the state said a delay for an additional study could threaten the project.

Leon ordered an additional environmental impact study based on Metro’s recent ridership decline and safety issues—a claim the plaintiffs added to their list of arguments after the initial lawsuit was filed in 2014.

Leon acknowledged the Purple Line is a separate transit system from Metro, but with about a quarter of projected riders expected to use Metro as part of their trips, he said it wouldn’t make sense not to consider Metro’s problems.

In one section of his decision, Leon appeared to confuse the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates Metro. The FTA in the following passage refers to the Federal Transit Administration.

WMATA was not a party in the case.

“At a minimum, WMATA and the FTA’s cavalier attitude toward these recent developments raises troubling concerns about their competence as stewards of nearly a billion dollars of federal taxpayer’s funds,” Leon wrote.

County Council member Roger Berliner wrote on Facebook that he “could not disagree more with the federal judge who has postponed, if not jeopardized, the construction of the Purple Line.”

“This is a terrible decision,” Berliner wrote. “Let us hope it does not have terrible consequences.”

The Action Committee for Transit, a group of local transit advocates, quickly condemned Leon’s decision:

So did Purple Line NOW, another group of local Purple Line advocates.

“We have no doubt that the study ordered by Judge Leon will affirm the same fact found by all of the past studies: our region desperately needs East-West transit alternatives,” Purple Line NOW President Ralph Bennett said. “This decision delays relief for tens of thousands of future riders, for employees going to a job in Bethesda, for students young and old commuting to the University of Maryland, for 90,000 Marylanders who will newly be within a half mile of transit, and for thousands of workers who will be employed to construct it.”

Back to Bethesda Beat

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Articles

Universities at Shady Grove’s Biomedical Sciences Center Building Project on Track for 2019

County executive, university representatives begin pushing state to support new programs

Uber Commute Expands into Montgomery County

Ride-for-hire company’s new service aims to let drivers make extra money as passengers carpool to a shared destination

Sold in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac: Oct. 16-22

Notable homes sold in the last week

Dana Beyer Confirms Run Against Del. Waldstreicher For District 18 Senate Opening

Race marks her second try for seat, after challenge to Sen. Madaleno four years ago
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored Content

Join Us on November 15 To See how the Democratic Candidates for Montgomery County Executive will Lead Us Into the Future

This free event will be hosted by The Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce and Bethesda Beat. Get your free tickets here.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »

Renovated Colonial

Bethesda, $1,995,000

Exquisite Condo

Chevy Chase, $2,650,000

Lovely Corner Lot

Bethesda, $1,200,000

Stunning Renovation

Bethesda, $1,664,000

Beautiful Finishes and a Pool

Bethesda, $1,459,000
Edit Module


Your Guides to Leading
Local Professionals

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit Module