DC Circuit Revives Purple Line Light Rail

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Construction of Maryland's on-again, off-again Purple Line light rail is on again, following a ruling by a federal appeals court.

The $2.5 billion project had been on hold since last year when a federal judge blocked construction. Judge Richard Leon said the federal transportation authority needed to evaluate ridership and safety issues before proceeding.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia stayed that order, however, pending an appeal in Fitzgerald v. Federal Transit Administration.

Risky Business

The 16-mile rail is proposed to stretch from Bethesda to New Carrollton. According to reports, however, the construction was deemed risky because the state has been running out of money for "pre-construction work."

Maryland officials said the trial court had prevented the state from signing a funding grant agreement with the federal government. With the appeals court ruling, now the state can access the $900 million in federal funds proposed for the light-rail project.

"Today's ruling is good news," Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn told Bethesda Beat, saying they will move forward with federal funding. "We appreciate the U.S. Court of Appeals' expeditious action."

Of course, opponents of the project were not happy with the decision. They sued to stop construction in 2014.

Rock Creek Park

The environmentalists alleged the light rail would threaten endangered species and ravage Washington, D.C.'s largest park. They said the Hay's amphipod, once thought to exist only in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, has been discovered in the light rail's path.

Rock Creek Park is 120 years old and covers about five square miles of trees, fields, and a meandering creek. It ranges from Georgetown up into Montgomery County.

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