Md. takes steps to slow Purple Line project

WASHINGTON — Maryland is stopping some work on the Purple Line after a series of court decisions, in a move the state’s transportation secretary is describing as a path forward for the light rail line.

“With an unknown timeline for an appeal and dwindling available cash to carry the federal reimbursable costs being expended by MDOT, and to protect the taxpayers of Maryland, I am ordering that action be taken immediately,” Pete Rahn said in a statement.

The state is directing the private group set to build and operate the line to stop signing any new construction contracts and to suspend any purchasing of nonessential materials and equipment or hiring of nonessential staff. The state will stop hiring Purple Line oversight staff, stop funding county design reviews and stop any final purchases of land needed for the rail project.

“All parties are directed to limit the obligation of further costs for the Purple Line project to those of agreed necessity,” Rahn said.

The state expects to take further steps to slow the project “as more information is available,” Rahn said in the statement.

Maryland is appealing a court ruling that was finalized earlier this week directing the state to conduct additional environmental analysis based on Metro’s declining ridership. That ruling did throw out two other counts of the lawsuit filed by opponents of the transit project, but the timeline for when an appeal might be decided is not clear.

The light rail line connecting New Carrollton, College Park, Silver Spring and Bethesda would be completely separate from Metro, but would include transfer points at those four stations.

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