Official says MD Purple Line on schedule despite lawsuit delays
- A Maryland Transit Administration official told lawmakers that, despite an eight-month delay, the Bethesda-area Purple Line light-rail system could still finish on schedule in 2022, according to The Washington Post.
- The MTA's Charles Lattuca told Prince George's and Montgomery county officials that the Purple Line team has been making progress on design and permitting while a federal judge decides whether the project can move forward, WTOP reported.
- Even if U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon accepts the MTA's ridership prediction — which is the main sticking point in the federal lawsuit — proposed Federal Transit Administration funding cuts could throw up an insurmountable hurdle to the project.
Leon halted the project in August of last year because he said the system's ridership numbers did not include declining Washington Metro figures. He ordered the FTA to re-examine the ridership figures from the first review, re-evaluate whether the Metro's declining commuter numbers would affect the Purple Line and determine whether a new review is in order.
In yet another blow, the Purple Line has missed the deadline to perform deforestation work along the route. Therefore, even if funding came through and all legal obstacles were removed, crews could not begin construction until after migratory birds leave the area in September.
As part of President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget, he suggested eliminating the Federal Transit Administration's capital investment program, which is where the Purple Line is looking for $900 million in funding. State officials have said they cannot afford to build the Purple Line without federal assistance.
The construction team building the 16-mile project, Purple Line Transit Partners, announced in June that it had closed a $5.6 billion public-private partnership deal with the MTA for the financing, design-build, operation and maintenance of the Purple Line. The state plans to contribute $3.3 billion, and Purple Line Transit Partners plans to fund $1 billion for the project, which was initially scheduled to open in 2022.
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