- A U.S. District Court Judge has declined to rule immediately on a new request to stop construction of the 16-mile, 21-stop Purple Line light-rail project underway north of Washington, DC, WTOP reported.
- Critics of the project say the federal government did not adequately assess the region's existing transit or the benefit of the Purple Line’s addition prior to signing a $900 million funding agreement. A separate but similar challenge by the same group will face an appellate panel in the coming weeks.
- Judge Richard Leon said it is possible he would issue a brief order that involved parties could appeal. A full opinion, if one comes down, could take more than a month. Project advocates are concerned that continued delays could raise project costs.
The Purple Line project got the federal funding it needed last month and broke ground shortly after. Some thought that would put an end to years of delays and general uncertainty as to the status of the project. But the $5.6 billion rail line isn't out of the woods yet.
Critics have pushed back on the ridership figures for the larger DC Metrorail system used to justify need for the suburban Purple Line. Metrorail has seen ridership fall due to poor performance, and critics of the Purple Line proposal say that fact isn’t reflected in the new project’s environmental review.
Meanwhile, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metrorail, is struggling to finance major projects it says are critical to its core function. Authority officials have said the system needs $15.5 billion in investment over the next decade to keep the rail operational. That doesn't include capital projects like new tunnels, additional service, and repairs needed to improve congestion and safety, which would bring the total funds needed to around $25 billion.
Metrorail serves downtown DC as well as its suburbs, in Maryland and Virginia. If and when it is completed, the Purple Line would connect key Maryland suburbs including Bethesda, Silver Spring and College Park (home to the University of Maryland) while also linking passengers to the MARC Train Service, a commuter rail that connects DC and Baltimore, including Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Regardless of whether commuters are using Metrorail, there is need for better transit in the DC area. As of 2014, roughly 39% of the DC workforce lived in Maryland, earning 37% of total District wages, according to the District’s Office of Revenue Analysis. Virginia residents accounted for around 28% of the DC workforce and 35% of wages.