Judge: More stud­ies on Pur­ple Line needed

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER -

A fed­eral judge or­dered Mary­land of­fi­cials to fur­ther scru­ti­nize the po­ten­tial im­pact of Metro’s de­clin­ing rid­er­ship on the fu­ture Pur­ple Line, adding new con­struc­tion de­lays for the light-rail project in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs and jeop­ar­diz­ing its chances to se­cure crit­i­cal fed­eral funds.

The rul­ing means ma­jor con­struc­tion on the 16-mile line con­nect­ing Mont­gomery and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties re­mains on hold un­til a fed­eral law­suit filed by Pur­ple Line op­po­nents is re­solved. Con­struc­tion has al­ready been de­layed seven months be­cause of the suit.

The de­ci­sion by U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard J. Leon also greatly jeop­ar­dizes the project’s chances at $900 mil­lion in fed­eral con­struc­tion grants and threat­ens a $5.6 bil­lion pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship.

Leon said that Mary­land and fed­eral tran­sit of­fi­cials must redo the Pur­ple Line’s rid­er­ship fore­casts be­cause they hadn’t taken “the req­ui­site ‘hard look’ at the po­ten­tial im­pact that [Metro’s] rid­er­ship and safety is­sues could have on the Pur­ple Line project.”

Leon said the gov­ern­ment’s dis­mis­sive treatment of Metro’s po­ten­tial ef­fects was “ar­bi­trary and capri­cious” and or­dered the agen­cies to up­date the rid­er­ship study “as ex­pe­di­tiously as pos­si­ble.”

“These [in­ci­dents] are part of the cul­ture that we need to change. So if you have, for 40 years, peo­ple be­hav­ing in a cer­tain way, and you’re try­ing to change that, it’s a very dif­fi­cult task to ac­com­plish.” Pa­trick Lavin, Metro’s chief safety of­fi­cer

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