July 19, 2017. This afternoon, the United States Court of Appeals reinstated the Record of Decision for the Purple Line that had been vacated by District Judge Richard Leon, meaning that the Secretary of Transportation could now decide whether the project, in her opinion, meets all the requirements of the law —  including those issues not yet reached by the District Court.  She can decide:

1) that the project does not meet those requirements,
2) that the project requires further review given weaknesses in it, changes in circumstances, such as Metro’s further decline and new alternatives now available in modern mobility and transit, or
3) she can sign a full funding grant agreement that might not meet the standards of the law or address the Transportation priorities of the region and the nation.

The Secretary’s testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation this month repeated the Administration’s position that Congress should not appropriate funds for the Federal Transit Administration to provide any more New Start Capital Investment Grants that had not already been signed.

The House Appropriations Committee approved less than was authorized and also confirmed that any such projects must still meet the procedural and substantive requirements of the law.

So, as Plaintiffs in this case, we are not daunted and we are not disheartened, for the logic and the law are clear.

The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reinstate the Purple Line Record of Decision pending Maryland’s appeal, which was issued without any explanation for the standards for a stay pending appeal have been satisfied, is disappointing, but it does not mean that a full funding grant agreement must or can be signed given the requirements of the Highway Act, for example, that repairing and maintaining a region’s existing transportation system must come first.

Given the challenges facing Metro, the cuts in Metro and bus service levels, and the fact that Maryland would raid MARC commuter train revenue to pay for Purple Line debt, that finding is impossible to make.

Federal transportation law (49 U.S.C. §5309(f)(1)) requires that:

‘local resources [be] available to recapitalize, maintain, and operate the overall existing and proposed public transportation system, including essential feeder bus and other services necessary to achieve the projected ridership levels without requiring a reduction in existing public transportation services or level of service to operate the project.’

Moreover, as the most costly and harmful alternative, whose ridership projections are implausible, and whose riders would mostly come from existing bus and other transit forms rather than taking cars off the road, the Purple Line does not meet the cost-effectiveness per rider, congestion relief, environmental benefits, avoiding harm to parks and historic places, and other criteria in federal transportation law.

For information on the project’s exorbitant costs, impossible ridership projections, why it wouldn’t reduce congestion, and other reasons not to fund the Purple Line, see below:

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