The Federal Transit Administration has asked a federal judge to reconsider his order potentially delaying construction of the light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington on Aug. 3 ordered that the Maryland Transit Administration’s “record of decision” on the Purple Line — the federal stamp of approval on the project’s environmental analysis — be set aside until the state recalculates ridership projections to account for Metro’s deterioration and declining ridership.
Days after Leon’s ruling, Maryland officials canceled a public signing ceremony in which federal officials were to commit $900 million in grants toward the project’s $2-billion construction, the last major hurdle before construction.
In a filing late Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department asked Leon to amend his ruling, saying he erred by requiring FTA to conduct a new impact study rather than letting the agency decide whether one was necessary, and by not allowing the record of decision to stand while a review is underway.
“The Court impermissibly substituted its judgment for that of FTA in making the ultimate finding that the information on WMATA Metrorail’s issues present a significant environmental impact,” lawyers for the FTA wrote.
The Maryland Transit Administration did not oppose the motion, a first step toward a potential appeal.
Federal and state lawyers have said a new ridership study could delay the project by six months and jeopardize a $5.6 billion public-private partnership that relies heavily on private construction financing.