US appeals court clears a legal hurdle for Purple Line

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Appeals court has cleared a major legal hurdle for the Purple Line by issuing a ruling in favor of the rail project.

The federal judges found that the federal and Maryland transit administrations did their due diligence in studying how the Purple Line would be affected by ongoing problems at Metro, including diminished ridership.

The appeals court published its opinion Tuesday, finding the agencies do not have to conduct a new environmental assessment to examine other potential routes for the light rail line which would connect Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

The decision reverses a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling in May ordering a new environmental impact study for the project to move forward.

Leading the opposition against the Purple Line, Ajay Bhatt, with the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, said he was surprised at the ruling and called it a “devastating loss.”

With all of the federally mandated fixes required at Metro and the lack of designated funding, Bhatt likened the Purple Line project to adding a sunroom to a home which has a leaky roof.

His group has long opposed the project, which would eradicate the green space between Montgomery County’s two largest population zones — Silver Spring and Bethesda.

“There is so much that can be done for our bus system and our Metro that doesn’t require a brand-new light rail transit system that runs only 16 miles. This thing is going to serve less than half of one percent of Maryland,” Bhatt said.

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail has also filed suit questioning whether the federal government properly vetted the project before securing funding. The case is in the hands of the U.S. District Court.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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