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By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

A federal court ruling could jeopardize construction of a nearly $6 billion light rail project through the Maryland suburbs north of Washington, D.C.

The Aug. 3 ruling, the result of a lawsuit by project opponents, set aside the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) decision allowing construction of the project, known as the Purple Line. Specifically, the court ordered a new analysis of ridership projections for the project based on the recent safety and maintenance struggles of the nearby Metro transit system. Read the ruling.

The ruling represents yet another occurrence of opponents using lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to derail transportation improvements. ARTBA has long fought to reform NEPA to reduce such frivolous litigation, which delay or stop transportation projects, jeopardizing jobs and other economic development. Maryland officials said they will appeal the court decision.

The 16-mile Purple Line between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County is one of the nation’s largest public-private partnerships for a transportation project. Several ARTBA members are part of the project team approved earlier this year.

ARTBA will continue to monitor this situation.