At a press conference Wednesday about Interstate 270, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan had some sharp criticism for Judge Richard Leon, who blocked the Purple Line days before the final agreements with the federal government could be signed.
Watch this video from Bethesda Beat's Andrew Metcalf:
Gov. Larry Hogan says today that judge in Purple Line case has a conflict of interest pic.twitter.com/DxGSVaj3Dp
— Andrew Metcalf (@AJwatchMD) April 19, 2017
We committed the funding ... and now there's a judge who happens to live at the country club that the thing runs through that's making the decision to hold it up. ...
I told [US Department of Transportation] Secretary [Elaine] Chao that we need to move forward as soon as possible, that we need to get that federal funding shaken loose. But Secretary Chao can't do anything about a judge, whose wife happens to be involved in the opponent group and who has have a conflict of interest, who's making a decision to hold this up.
We've already spent—the State of Maryland has already spent 380 million dollars on the Purple Line. No one has ever spent that kind of money. It will cost us another 380 million dollars even if we don't move forward. No one has done more than us, and the federal government is going to have to provide the rest of the funding, but right now even federal funding we can't move forward because of a judge who lives at Chevy Chase Country Club [inaudible].
Judge Leon blocked the Purple Line in August, saying that the Environmental Impact Statement justifying the line's value depended on people transferring to Metro, and declining Metro ridership threw that into doubt. (Never mind that with an unreliable rail system, many Purple Line trips between branches of the Metro could be even more important!) Federal and Maryland transit officials then determined, and told Leon in January, that they didn't believe a supplemental EIS was necessary.
Leon has yet to then issue a ruling to either allow the project to move forward or continue to block it, in which case the government could appeal. Maryland's attorney general asked for an expedited ruling earlier this month. Hopefully the judge will allow the project to continue, and at that point, the only question would be whether the Trump administration would honor the Federal Transit Administration's previous support for helping to fund the line.