Purple Line Obstacles Called Into Question by Local Leaders

LAUREL, Md. — A light rail line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s counties is still on track despite a pair of significant hurdles, according to one state leader.

Chuck Lattuca of the Maryland Transit Administration told council members from the two counties that he still expects the Purple Line, which would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton, to open in 2022.

A judge put the project on hold in August in response to a lawsuit, saying further review of the line’s environmental impact may be needed, because problems on Metro have called into question the Purple Line’s ridership projections.

Lattuca said that the state has provided additional materials to the court and is awaiting another ruling. In the meantime, with construction held up, the state continues to work to acquire land rights, get permits and perform land surveys, among other things.

Several leaders attending the meeting expressed frustration with the rail line’s delay and the judge’s ruling. Montgomery County council members Roger Berliner and Tom Hucker asked if the Maryland Transit Administration would consider an emergency pleading with the judge, urging him to make a final decision.

“We have satisfied the judge’s ruling,” Berliner contended, “but until he says so we are being held up.”

In addition to the legal issues, federal funding for the project has also been called into question. Lattuca said that President Donald Trump administration’s guidance was that it would not move forward with projects that do not have a full-funding grant agreement. He said “many other projects were also caught up in this,” in addition to the Purple Line.

Lattuca said that if the project’s funding is not included in President Trump’s budget, it could be added back in by Congress. He said previous administrations have stripped out funding for the project only to have it added back in by lawmakers. Lattuca also said that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to ask for help with the project, but did not have further details of the meeting.

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