Maryland light rail system may be back on track

RELATED TOPICS: EAST | TRANSIT | INFRASTRUCTURE | LAWSUITS | POLITICS
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WASHINGTON — Maryland's Purple Line may have taken a turn for the better. A federal judge in Washington on Tuesday threw out portions of a lawsuit that had blocked progress on the program since August 2016, the Washington Post reported.

The Purple Line is a proposed $2.4 billion, 16-mile light rail system between Bethesda and New Carrollton, Md., in the two counties adjacent to the District of Columbia. The line would skirt the District of Columbia’s border, and have 21 stations. It would intersect four Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority subway lines, and Amtrak at New Carrollton.

However, the right-of-way would take up portions of a popular hiking-biking trail. In 2014, Purple Line opponents filed suit claiming the line would harm the environment. It also claimed that planners had not accurately estimated the number of passengers who would transfer to the Washington Metro.

The ruling Monday dismissed the environmental claims, and clears the way for the state to appeal the ridership question. State officials said they wanted the case settled by June 1, or else the state would run out of money to pay for planning and engineering.

About half of the funding for the line would come from a partnership between the state and a private investment group led by the Fluor Corp. Under the partnership agreement, the consortium would build and operate the line for 36 years.

The state is still hoping to get $900 million from the Federal Transit Administration Capital Investment Grant program. The Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal would eliminate all capital grant funding for new starts, but the Purple Line is one of a handful of projects that could still be considered for a full-funding grant agreement.

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