Federal court rules rail project will continue

A federal appeals court recently overruled a lower court that had blocked the Maryland Purple Line light-rail project.

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The project is a public-private partnership and was planned to run 16 miles between two Washington D.C. northern suburbs. The project received $900 million in federal funding.

In 2014, a group of citizen activists opposing the project took the case to court. Construction was halted by a lower court judge in August 2016. The judge said the Federal Transit Administration had failed to consider declining ridership on the D.C. Metro system.

The ruling was appealed by Maryland and the federal government. The governments said under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) it was not required to consider ridership on the entire regional transit system.

“If plaintiffs or courts can upend the culmination of the onerous NEPA process for economic or policy reasons having nothing to do with the environment, the ensuing uncertainty and delay would discourage public and private investment needed to rebuild and improve the country’s transportation infrastructure,” the American Road & Transportation Builders Association said in its brief to the court.

The federal court ruled NEPA had been misused by the line’s opponents and that agencies are not required to repeat their environmental impact analyses every time new information becomes available.