WASHINGTON — Maryland transportation leaders have filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, hoping for movement on the Purple Line project, which remains in legal limbo.
State officials want the federal appeals court to stay an order by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that has delayed construction on the 16-mile light rail line.
The line would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton.
“The Purple Line has broad support,” Maryland officials said in court documents filed Wednesday. “If not stayed or reversed before August 1, 2017, that order could cause the state to cancel the project, resulting in a financial loss to the state of approximately $800 million.”
The judge’s order, issued last year, stripped the project of its federal approval and directed Maryland to conduct a fresh supplemental environmental review.
Maryland is appealing the order.
However, without the federal approval in place, the state cannot secure $900 million in federal funding for the project. State transportation officials said, if the appeals court grants a stay, they will have access to that Purple Line money and receive enough funding to keep the project alive as the appeal plays out.
“After decades of review and public involvement, holding the Congressionally appropriated funds hostage is not fair to the taxpayers of Maryland,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. “We are asking the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to expeditiously grant our stay, opening the door for federal funding.”
During a court hearing last week, Leon was asked to stay his order but declined to say whether he would do so. He put the blame on Maryland, saying it had moved too quickly to sign a $5.6 billion contract to build the line.
According to the court documents, Congress has appropriated $325 million of its $900 million commitment to the Purple Line, and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have committed approximately $335 million.