In a victory for the citizens’ lawsuit led by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, Federal judge Richard Leon today ordered the FTA and MTA to undertake a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the Purple Line. The judge found that the agencies’ “wholesale failure” to consider the expert submissions by Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and to respond substantively, in spite of the law’s requirements, is “arbitrary and capricious.”

“This is a victory of substantive analysis over agency arrogance,” said Ajay Bhatt, President of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, and John Fitzgerald, legal adviser to Friends and a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“This ruling provides us all with the opportunity to re-evaluate our regional transportation priorities,” said Bhatt.

“Before the State and Montgomery County and Prince George’s Counties continue to push the fiscally irresponsible and environmentally damaging Purple Line, citizens should demand answers as to how these governments will help meet the $16.8 Billion over the next ten years in Metrorail obligations,” added Bhatt.  “This should also give us the opportunity to look at technological advances that enable effective transportation upgrades to our existing systems, and that already make the Purple Line obsolete.”

“The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) required by the court should provide the public with a chance to put up-to-date facts on the record,” said Fitzgerald, legal adviser to Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and a co-plaintiff.  “This process will require the agency to respond to substantive comments from experts and the public and explain how it is that the Purple Line light rail, shown in the Alternatives Assessment and Draft EIS to be the least effective, most costly means of moving people east to west, should take priority over fixing Metrorail and the many greater bottlenecks plaguing Montgomery and PG Counties and the Washington region as a whole.”

In his ruling, federal Judge Leon notes that the agencies failed to adequately consider the issues raised by plaintiffs.  MTA’s reply memorandum, for example, included “no analysis, nor even a mention, of plaintiffs’ expert declarations,” according to the judge’s memorandum opinion.

“Our nation’s bedrock environmental and transportation laws are at work right now and empower citizens to shine the light on deeply flawed and harmful projects like the Purple Line and on better alternatives,” said Christine Real de Azua,  co-plaintiff in the case and a member of the Board of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.

“From a transportation point of view alone the Purple Line defies common sense: the Purple Line would mostly shift riders away from existing transit, according to MTA’s own data, and utterly fail to serve the most people at the lowest cost,” said Real de Azua.

For the judge’s new ruling click below:

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