Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, in its court filing on June 8, requested that in order to avoid irreversible injury to the public, the Purple Line remain suspended while the courts ensure that the agencies undertake the steps necessary to comply with the law and protect the public to the full extent of the law.

The filing also puts the blame squarely on Maryland for pushing a project that is already causing harm and that would not be in the public interest, whether from a transportation, environmental or fiscal perspective.

In addition to the response, which demonstrates that Maryland has not satisfied any of the “stringent standards” that must be met for their extraordinary request, the filing also includes several expert declarations.

Bradley Heard, an attorney and citizen activist who resides in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George’s County, Maryland is the publisher of the “PGUrbanist” blog on smart growth, good transportation, and responsible government. In a declaration included in the filing he summarized a formal request he sent to the Federal Transit Administration earlier this year seeking a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Purple LIne’s impact on Prince George’s County. In his declaration, Heard said,

“[M]y SEIS request seeks to have FTA evaluate the potential adverse indirect or cumulative impacts of the proposed Purple Line on existing local transit centers within Prince George’s County, in light of Prince George’s County’s conclusions in its most recent comprehensive plan that “too many centers undermine economic growth” and that the county did not have enough projected growth through 2035 to develop properly the rail transit station areas it already has.  My request also seeks to have FTA evaluate the potential adverse indirect or cumulative impacts of the proposed Pure Line on WMATA’s ability to coordinate and deliver regional transportation services effectively and without undue influence or duplication in Prince George’s County, in accordance with the mission set forth in its governing interstate compact.”

Another declaration chastized Maryland for putting vital transportation and safety improvements, including bridge repairs, on hold pending the Purple Line while spending untold amounts on PR such as “Kid’s Page” coloring activities on the Purple Line website. “This is inexcusable – one does not put off vital maintenance work waiting for a controversial project to comply with the law,” said Christine Real de Azua, an environmental

professional and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, writing on behalf of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.

According to the Maryland Transit Administration’s own estimates, well over 70% of Purple Line riders would be people who already use public transit. “Merely shifting most riders from one transit form to another – at such a high cost – further undermines a claim to “public interest,” Real de Azua continued. It also explains why MTA, in its response to comments on its Impact Statement, acknowledged that the Purple Line would take very few cars off the road and was not designed to reduce congestion, according to the declaration.

Real de Azua’s declaration also details the irreversible environmental harm that would occur if the project and construction were allowed to go forward — including the immediate loss of 48 acres of forest inside the Beltway — and the fact that such construction “would preclude alternatives that should be analyzed in the SEIS ordered by the Court and that would both avoid or significantly reduce adverse environmental impacts while also costing far less than the Purple Line.”

The Purple Line would be harmful in many ways, say experts and citizens who have been engaged in reviewing the proposed project and its impacts, and have concluded the Purple Line is not what we need.

Don MacGlashan, an engineer and expert in noise control, provided a declaration that included a recent study he helped to conduct on the negative effect the Purple Line would have on the students and teachers of several schools where the trains’ frequent passing would disrupt lessons and have other harmful effects (See MacGlashan Declaration).

Stuart Sessions, a former official in the US EPA’s water office, has reviewed three significant sets of threats to the waters of Maryland and the US affected by the Purple Line, including several that have come to light in recent months and were not revealed let alone assessed as required in the project’s Impact Statement. In addition, he raised concerns about conflicts of interest and a lowering of protective standards in a Memorandum of Understanding between the MTA and the Maryland Department of the Environment:

“Materials came to my attention not until 2015 that indicated that the Maryland Department of the Environment had provided technical directions and concluded a “Memorandum of Understanding with the MTA (mostly in 2012) that will have the effect of reducing the degree of treatment and mitigation that MTA will need to provide for stormwater flows from the Purple Line. In my view, one of the technical directions is inconsistent with the factual record on the issue that is addressed, and the MOU represents an inappropriate transfer of MDE’s traditional oversight role on environmental questions to another Agency that will have a conflict of interest in upholding environmental standards. Together the technical directions and the MOU have the effect of providing more lenient environmental requirements and oversight review for the State-sponsored Purple Line than would likely prevail for another comparable project that was not State-sponsored.”

“The Purple Line is high cost, no benefit,” said Anne Spielberg, a public interest lawyer who lives within a block and a half of the Purple Line route on the residential section of Wayne Avenue, and who recently joined the Board of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.  “In my community in Silver Spring, the trains will run within a few yards of neighbors’ front yards and in mixed traffic, with dangers particularly for children attending the public middle and elementary schools located on the route.  Meanwhile, the Purple Line’s huge costs divert the resources needed to support the true mobility, small business creation and economic development that would benefit a much larger share of the area and of Maryland populations. For example, the State of Maryland has again postponed planning for and implementation of the Corridor Cities Transitway, a bus system that would have served a corridor of northern Montgomery County that desperately needs public transit to support its growth, while we already have numerous existing bus options along the proposed Purple Line route.”

The filing also attached other expert declarations on:

The admission of the Office of Attorney General of the State of Maryland that did not dispute sworn declarations that the barred owl was now nesting in February and March along the Trail, that the MD DNR had forewarned that this would require a ban on cutting trees there during those months, the state could not prevent the MTA or its agents from violating the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act in Montgomery County even if the MTA did not adjust its clear cutting schedule accordingly. (See Manville Declaration.)

Apparent violations of Historic Preservation and related laws, including harm to the Bethesda Community Hardware and Paint Store. (See Nixon Declaration.)

The manner in which the MTA never revealed the contents of subsurface rail bed soils being drilled up along the route, then disregarded its own promises to remove all excess soils from boring deep under old rail beds until evidence of its contractors shoveling such potentially dangerous materials toward the backyards of neighboring residents and then replied that the MTA would spread the excess materials on the Trail itself instead. (See Bickerman Declaration.)

For the full filing including declarations, click below.

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