In his ruling, Judge questions “whether nearly a billion dollars in federal dollars should ultimately be committed to a project for which serious questions have been raised as to its future viability.”
August 3, 2016: Federal Judge Richard Leon ruled today in favor of the citizens’ lawsuit challenging the Purple Line on multiple claims under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Transit Act, and other federal transportation and environmental statutes.
The order vacates the Record of Decision by the Maryland Transit Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, which approved the Purple Line, and orders the agencies to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the project.
In his opinion accompanying the order, Judge Leon explained that the agencies have “wholly failed to evaluate the significance of the documented safety issues and decline of WMATA [Metro] ridership.” – developments that may have an enormous bearing on the rationale for, and viability of, the Purple Line, which depends heavily on Metro ridership for its justification.
The Court further wrote that “… the FTA’s cavalier attitude toward these recent developments raises troubling concerns about their competence as stewards of nearly a billion dollars of the federal taxpayers’ funds.”
The Purple Line as proposed would be an environmentally destructive, 16-2.mile, multi-billion dollar light-rail transit project that the Maryland’s Transit Administration has promoted in one form or another for more than two decades. The Plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit are Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, John M. Fitzgerald, and Christine Real de Azua, with the support of many thousands of citizens who have signed petitions, submitted comments, provided volunteer work, and contributed to support the lawsuit, lawsuit, which argues that the federal and state governments have overlooked or downplayed myriad environmental impacts as well as far less costly and harmful alternatives.
John Fitzgerald said “Vacating the Record of Decision means that the FTA is precluded from signing a Full Funding Grant Agreement as they had planned on Monday August 8th because the necessary Record of Decision is gone and no major federal action significantly affecting the environment can lawfully be carried out without a legally valid impact statement and Record of Decision. And, as is implicit in the judge’s ruling, this judicially mandated process offers a critical opportunity to reassess the region’s transportation priorities and alternatives, well beyond the Purple Line as proposed.”
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail President, Ajay Bhatt, added “This ruling sends a very strong signal to the State of Maryland and any subdivision, such as Montgomery County, to cease any harmful action ahead of the law against the Georgetown Branch of the Capital Crescent Trail, the trees that line it and the parks through which it passes. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our supporters and to our attorneys and the many experts who weighed in on the side of science, sustainability and sensibility.”
Attorneys David Brown of Knopf and Brown, Eric Glitzenstein of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Eubanks LLP, and John M. Fitzgerald represented the plaintiffs.
Christine Real de Azua said, “A long list of experts volunteered their research and analysis to unearth the truth about this project’s costs and what it would do to our environment and human health and safety. It is also the support from hundreds of citizens that made it possible for us to retain the expert advice and services of these attorneys. Together, this team is showing that common sense and the law can prevail as we all seek what is truly in the public interest. “
The Judge’s order and full opinion memorandum are available at: