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A federal judge on March 1 dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Maryland Department of Transportation, the U.S. Transportation Department and the Federal Transit Administration.
Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) request that he dismiss a lawsuit filed by the organization Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and a couple of individuals. Leon wrote in his opinion that he granted MDOT’s request because the plaintiffs did not meet the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, which they had used in their arguments.
Plaintiffs’ claims did not fall within the “zone of interests protected by the statute that the agency is alleged to have violated,” and they did not file the suit in a timely manner, Leon wrote.
The most recently terminated suit was not the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail’s first attempt to stop the construction of the light rail line. They also sued in 2014.
“Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, this second attempt to stop the Purple Line fares no better than their first,” Leon wrote. “The claims in (the) plaintiffs’ amended complaint each fail(s) one of these requirements. Accordingly, the defendants’ motions to dismiss this suit must be granted.”
The two-way, light rail transit system will connect Bethesda Station on the Red Line to New Carrollton Station on the Orange Line, running east to west.
Chevy Chase resident and attorney John Fitzgerald as well as Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail filed the lawsuit in July 2017. Construction of the Purple Line required that the Capital Crescent Trail be closed.
“That was because they (FTA) signed the grant,” Fitzgerald said of the lawsuit.
The $900 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration enabled construction of the Purple Line to begin.
Judge Leon included criticism to plaintiffs in his written opinion, saying their first lawsuit was stronger, and since then, their arguments had weakened.
The 2017 suit also was not Friends of the Capital Crescent Trails’ final attempt to bring the project to a halt.
Friends of Capital Crescent Trail and individuals filed a third lawsuit in January in which they claimed that a permit was improperly issued for the Purple Line.
Greg Sanders, vice president of Purple Line Now -an organization based on its support for the transit line – said he is glad that Leon dismissed the lawsuit.
“We are thankful that this latest effort (by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail) ended with a firm rejection and no further harm,” Sanders said. “Now is the time to focus attention on delivering the benefits of the Purple Line to Maryland, connecting communities, and mitigating the inherent disruption of construction.”
Fred Craig, CEO of the consultant Purple Line Transit Partners spoke at a community discussion on the project in College Park hosted by Purple Line Now in January.
Delays to the project due to lawsuits have pushed the projected completion date from March 2022 to February 2023, according to PLTP. The delays have also cost $125 million, they said.
Craig said at the discussion he hopes the project can be completed within a year of the previously scheduled date, as long as construction continues at its ramped-up pace to catch up.
“These projects, the magnitude that this is, have a vision for people that they go through the planning process, and then they think about the end when the project is running and everything is done,” Craig said. “People forget about how hard it is to get from the vision to the reality.”
The Purple Line is being built through a public-private partnership between MDOT, the FTA and the consultant Purple Line Transit Partners.
MDOT did not respond to request for comment before press time.