Federal judges granted a stay on lower court’s ruling on the Purple Line, clearing the way for the light rail project to move forward.
On Wednesday a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the stay of District of Columbia District Court judge Richard Leon.
“I think this is great news,” said Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer (D-at large). “This means we wrested this from the grip of this judge that made a really bad decision.”
Ever since Leon’s August 11 ruling that halted construction of the Purple Line, state and local officials have criticized it claiming the judge unfairly blocked the project. Leon ruled in August that Maryland Transit Administration needed to update it Metro ridership numbers before it can commence with the project.
Wednesday’s ruling means the State can proceed with construction of the project that will connect Metro stops in Montgomery County to ones in Prince George’s County.
“The order will allow construction to commence and we will continue to do everything we possibly can to keep the Purple Line moving forward,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh in a Tweet he posted after the ruling.
Wednesday ruling also potential free up $900 million in federal funding that will help fund the State project.
“Getting it cleared legally is kind of prerequisite to getting that money released,” Riemer said. “We are a lot closer. We’re not done yet, but we’re a lot closer.”
Last year, Friends of the Capital Crescent trail sued the MTA, claiming the state agency needs to explain how Metro’s declining ridership numbers will affect projected ridership for the Purple Line.
Leon ruled that the MTA needed a new Metro ridership study meaning the project was postponed until there was a new ridership study.
“These serious issues, which may have long-term effects on Metro ridership, only underscore how important it was for defendants to take the requisite hard look at the potential effect of Metro’s safety issues on Purple Line ridership and any related environmental issues,” Leon said.
The state officially approved the project in April of 2016, claiming the proposed 16-mile light rail will facilitate travel between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. When finished, the Purple Line will connect Bethesda Metro station to the New Carrollton station with stops at other Metro stations such as Silver Spring and College Park.
Unlike the Metro, the Purple will be an above ground light rail operated by the MTA rather than the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and is projected to serve 59,400 daily customers when completed.
As part of its contract to build the Purple Line, the state awarded a $5.6 billion contract to Purple Line Transit Partners to build the light rail line.