Finally, the Purple Line gets some forward movement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reinstated the project’s Record of Decision yesterday, overturning U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon’s prior revocation and allowing the project to move forward while litigation ensues. The Record of Decision is an environmental approval necessary for the state and federal government to enter into a Full Funding Grant Agreement, authorizing $900 in federal transportation funds for the project. The litigation has postponed execution of the funding agreement for nearly a year.
Of course, the U.S. Department of Transportation could still opt to hold off on executing the agreement until litigation concludes. Reports The Washington Post:
A key issue remains, however: whether the U.S. Department of Transportation will consider the ruling to provide enough legal certainty to sign a multiyear funding agreement with the state for nearly $1 billion in federal aid. The Trump administration has proposed ending federal grants for new transit construction but has said in budget documents that it’s still considering the Purple Line for federal funding.
The Federal Transit Administration referred inquiries Wednesday to the Justice Department. A Justice Department spokesman said lawyers were still reviewing the court order.
Until Wednesday’s ruling, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn had said the Purple Line was at risk of being canceled because the state was quickly running out of money to continue pre-construction work without the federal reimbursement. Congress has appropriated $325 million to the Purple Line, but the state can’t access that money until a full funding agreement is signed.
“Today’s ruling is good news,” Rahn said. “We will be working with USDOT to move a Full Funding Grant Agreement forward.”
According to Twitter, state and local officials are pleased.