Last August, US District Judge Richard Leon revoked environmental approval for the Purple Line, saying there had not been sufficient study of how declining Metro ridership might affect the light rail line. The Federal Transit Administration said it had looked at the matter closely enough and that Metro would have only a small impact on Purple Line use. But on Monday, after months of waiting and repeated requests for a ruling, Leon doubled down, ruling that the line can’t move forward without further study.
This ruling could be the final blow to the Purple Line. Maryland officials say that if they don’t have their environmental approval restored by June 1, they will have to wind down planning and design work that has already started. In addition, the state will lose $800 million, including $200 million to pay back the private firm building the line for ending their contract early.
On top of that, the state would lose $125 million in federal money for construction if this isn’t resolved by the fall.
Beyond standing in the way of a project that would improve lives across the region, Judge Leon’s ruling also sets a bad precedent for other transportation projects in the area that use the same ridership models as the Purple Line. Opponents of a project could point to this ruling and say the numbers are wrong.
This ruling also calls Judge Leon’s partiality into question. Last month, Governor Hogan argued that the judge has a conflict of interest because he lives in Chevy Chase near a country club that has opposed the Purple Line for decades.
There is *extremely* questionable legal basis for this disastrous decision. Judge Leon's personal conflict of interest should be examined. https://t.co/4XPUgyljJQ— BeyondDC (@beyonddc) May 22, 2017
John Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua, the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit against the Purple Line, abused environmental laws designed to protect people from harm to instead keep people from traveling through their affluent neighborhood. By siding with them, Judge Leon put the whims of a wealthy few over the future of the entire Washington region.