Final lawsuit against Purple Line project questions choice of light rail over buses

Written by RT&S Staff
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After months of delay, the Purple Line project in Maryland is expected to kick back into high gear after Labor Day.
Purple Line

The third and final lawsuit against the Purple Line project in Maryland could just result in a second look.

Opponents of the light-rail project appeared in a federal appeals court on March 11 and argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued permits that allowed construction workers to discharge dredge and fill into streams and wetlands in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. The plaintiffs said this was a violation of the Clean Water Act and the Corps needed to consider their idea, which was to upgrade bus service that would be more environmentally friendly.

Back in April, U.S. District Judge James Bredar said the state demonstrated that the Purple Line design under construction was the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”

The group, called Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and residents John Fitzgerald and Leonard Scensny, wants the permits to be re-evaluated.

However, lawyers for the Corps and the Maryland Transit Administration said the Corps did everything right involving the environmental impact study. Furthermore, the areas in question, 5,100 linear feet of streams and approximately a half-acre of wetlands, were minimal.

The state looked at bus options, but concluded the transportation mode would have created more damage to wetlands than a light-rail project.

It’s not clear how the third lawsuit will affect construction of the Purple Line if the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff.

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