Purple Line proponents plead with judge to start construction

SILVER SPRING, Md. — A group of Purple Line proponents gathered for a rally in downtown Silver Spring Tuesday morning and called on a federal judge to act quickly in making a decision on the light rail line, which has been stalled for months.

“We need this project,” said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin, D-Md. “This is a critical aspect of infrastructure development in the state.”

Construction on the project, a 16-mile light rail line from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, was scheduled to begin in late 2016 but it has been tied up in the courts amid a federal lawsuit from Purple Line opponents who have environmental concerns.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a ruling in August that halted construction indefinitely.

During Tuesday’s rally, advocates called on Leon to decide what comes next.

“We want the decision about the Purple Line to come quickly so we can get on the Purple Line and start moving rapidly around the region,” Raskin said.

Ralph Bennett, president of the advocacy group Purple Line Now, also pressed the judge.

“There is only one obstacle remaining to the realization of this project, and that is a judge,” Bennett said. “We are here to try to communicate to him the urgency with which we would like him to come to a decision.”

Leon has not ruled on the latest issues in the case, despite requests from state officials to act so Maryland does not have to pay for costs associated with delays.

“Maryland cannot afford to finance this state of affairs very much longer,” Bennett added.

A $1.1 trillion federal spending bill, endorsed Monday by the White House and top lawmakers, includes $125 million in funding for the Purple Line. However, Maryland could lose that money if the major legal issues surrounding the project are not sorted out before the fiscal year ends in September.

“Congress has made itself clear. We want the Purple Line built,” said Raskin.

The Purple Line will be overseen by the Maryland Transit Administration and will provide a direct connection to the Metrorail Red, Green and Orange Lines at Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton. It will also connect to MARC, Amtrak, and local bus services.

If construction is allowed to move forward soon, the line would open in 2022.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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