State Suspends Purple Line Work 

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is scaling back work on the Purple Line so long as the project is held up in court, reports The Washington Post. MDOT has told Purple Line Transit Partners, the project’s contractor, to stop executing new construction contracts, procuring certain materials and equipment, and hiring new staff. MDOT also plans to postpone hiring new staff for the project or acquiring any more land.

[MDOT Secretary Pete] Rahn made the announcement one day after the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said it would appeal a May 22 ruling in a 2014 lawsuit opposing the project. The court order requires the state to redo the line’s ridership forecasts to reflect Metro’s decline. The Purple Line would be operated separately from Metro, but about 27 percent of the light-rail line’s passengers are expected to be people transferring to and from the subway.

In a mid-May filing seeking a speedy decision in the lawsuit, Rahn warned that the state would have to suspend Purple Line work starting Thursday unless it had a “foreseeable path” to $900 million in federal grant money. The state won’t be eligible for that money until the project’s environmental approval is restored as part of the lawsuit appeal.

As of Thursday, he wrote, Maryland would “no longer have sufficient cash flow” to keep the project moving in anticipation of being reimbursed with federal aid. The entire project could be canceled about 60 days after a suspension of “ongoing project activities,” Rahn told the court.
It was unclear whether this suspension was enough to start a 60-day clock or what money the state will use to continue ongoing Purple Line work. Rahn’s statement also didn’t expand on a mention that “further steps should be anticipated as more information is available.”

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