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

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has reinstated environmental approval for the Maryland Purple Line, a $6 billion public-private partnership (P3) light-rail project in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The court’s July 19 decision not only allows construction to proceed during litigation on the project, but also permits the State of Maryland to continue to pursue over $900 million in federal funding for the project.

The 16-mile Purple Line between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County received a state green light last year and by now should have been leaning into its first full summer of construction. In June, however, the Maryland Department of Transportation stopped most pre-construction work on the project due to the litigation. Several ARTBA members are part of the project team, Purple Line Transit Partners.

The project has been the subject of multiple claims from development opponents using lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to block transportation improvements, jeopardizing jobs and other economic development.  Litigation will now continue as to whether or not the original environmental impact statement from the federal government was sufficient to justify the project.

ARTBA is examining options to be sure this important P3 project moves forward and does not jeopardize future transportation improvements.