The State of Maryland awarded a $5.6 billion dollar contract to design, build and operate the Purple Line light rail project in April 2016 and authorized the contractor, the Purple Line Transit Partners, to proceed with “pre-construction activities” while the State pursued finalizing a full funding agreement with the federal government, which had promised to contribute $900 million dollars to the project. On July 28, 2016 the State announced that the formal signing of a full funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration had been scheduled to take place on August 8, 2016. It was anticipated that construction of the Purple Line would begin shortly thereafter. But a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia had other ideas.
August 3, 2016
The U.S. District Court (Leon, J.) vacated the Record of Decision (“ROD”), which was the required federal approval of the Purple Line, and directed the State to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement addressing whether a decline in Metro ridership would impact the Purple Line’s ridership. The vacation of the ROD precluded the State from receiving the $900 million of federal funding which had been committed to the project. Thus, the court’s order put the entire project in jeopardy.
December 16, 2016
The State advised the District Court that it had reviewed the ridership issue and determined that no change in Metro ridership would adversely impact the Purple Line, as the Purple Line would still be needed even if no Metro riders transferred to the light rail. The State asked the Court to reinstate the ROD.
December 2016 – March 2017
The Court failed to rule on the State’s request that the ROD be reinstated, so the project remained stalled and in jeopardy of failing completely.
March 31, 2017
The State filed a motion asking that the Court rule on its pending motion expeditiously. Specifically, the State asked that the Court rule on its motion no later than April 28, 2017. The Court failed to decide the State’s motion by the end of April as the State had requested it to do and the court continued to hold the State’s motion under advisement without issuing a decision.
May 12, 2017
The State sought a writ of mandamus from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking the Court of Appeals to order the District Court to issue a final appealable decision in the case “forthwith.”
May 22, 2017
The District Court finally issued a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and against the State holding that the State’s failure to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement was arbitrary and capricious—and the District Court reiterated its requirement that the State prepare a new environmental impact statement before it would be permitted to move forward with the project.
May 29, 2017
The District Court issued a final judgment on the underlying lawsuit, which made it possible for the State to finally file an appeal.
June 2, 2017
The State filed a motion asking the District Court to stay its
August 3, 2016 Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal of the court’s decision.
June 15, 2017
The District Court held a hearing on the State’s request that it stay its Order vacating the ROD pending the State’s appeal. The State asked the District Court to rule expeditiously on its motion. At the hearing the District Court advised the State that it could not “predict” how long it may take to issue a decision on the State’s motion for a stay pending appeal. The court stated that it was going to write an opinion because “[t]he Court of Appeals likes things with ribbons and bows on them, so they will get ribbons and bows.”
June 21, 2017
Because the District Court had failed to rule on its motion, the State filed a motion in the Court of Appeals asking the appellate court to stay the District Court’s order pending appeal.
June 26, 2017
The District Court issued its Order denying the State’s request for a stay pending appeal.
July 18, 2017
The Court of Appeals issued an Order reinstating the ROD pending its consideration of the State’s appeal of the District Court’s judgment.
Once the Record of Decision was reinstated, the State aggressively pursued formalizing the federal government’s commitment of $900 million to the project. Construction of the project was still effectively stayed, as the State could not go forward with the project without the promised federal funding.
August 28, 2017
The Federal Transit Administration signed the Full Funding Agreement with the State officially committing federal funds to the project.
Construction of the Purple Line is now over a full year behind the original schedule. Consequently, the State and the contractor moved aggressively to begin construction and make up for lost time.
August 29, 2017
The very next day after the FTA signed the Full Funding Agreement, the contractor posted public notices that the Georgetown Branch Trail would be closed for the anticipated five-year period of construction beginning Tuesday, September 5, 2017. In addition, property acquisition and tenant and owner relocation activities were accelerated. And, because the Maryland Office of Attorney General, which prosecutes eminent domain cases for the Purple Line, was overwhelmed by the number of open and unresolved cases, the State has engaged a private law firm to handle some of the cases to expedite the property acquisition process.
The State’s acceleration of construction and property acquisition has led to many questions from the public concerning the schedule of construction and when, exactly, construction activities will begin at different points along the 16-mile route.
September 28, 2017
The Montgomery County Council held a hearing where it asked the Purple Line contractor (Purple Line Transit Partners) and State representatives to advise the County Council of the expected construction schedule and many other issues. The contractor advised the County Council that it was working on a master construction schedule, but it has not yet completed that effort. The contractor advised that once the schedule was complete it would be posted on the Purple Line Project Website. You may view a videotape of the hearing by clicking here.
In addition, the contractor explained that it hoped to provide weekly updates to the construction schedule as the project moves forward. And interested members of the public could sign up to receive project updates and other information by Email or text by clicking on this page of the website. Finally, the contractor will hold regular meetings with the Community Advisory Councils that have been formed to be liaisons between the project and the community. A list of the Community Advisory Councils and how to contact them may also be found on the project website by clicking here.
The eminent domain attorneys at Miller, Miller & Canby will review any offer made by the State without charge to determine whether we believe you may be entitled to greater compensation than has been offered by the State. If you are interested in a no obligation review of your offer, or if you have any questions about your rights or the condemnation process, please call our office at 301-762-5212 and ask to speak with one of our eminent domain attorneys, Jim Thompson or Joe Suntum. To learn more about our eminent domain and condemnation law practice and representative cases, click here.