Federal Court Requires Further Study For Environmentally Destructive “Purple Line” Project

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has agreed with our claims – made on behalf of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and two environmental activists – that the proposed “Purple Line” requires further environmental review before it may move forward.  The Purple Line is a massively expensive, environmentally harmful project that, if built, would destroy precious park land and seriously impair the popular Capital Crescent Trail, threaten area wildlife, including rare species found only in the Washington, D.C. vicinity, and degrade the quality of many of the region’s water ways.  Far less environmentally harmful alternatives, such as expanding and improving bus service, would accomplish the project’s purported objectives at a fraction of the cost and impact.  In the case decided yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Federal Transit Administration and its counterparts in the State of Maryland violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) analyzing the need for the project in view of the “recent extraordinary events involving seemingly endless Metrorail breakdowns and safety issues.”  Although the Purple Line is not technically part of the Metrorail system, as proposed, the Purple Line is heavily dependent on Metro riders for its projected ridership, and even the project name is intended to emphasize the interrelationship with the Metro system.  Consequently, the Court concluded that the federal and state agencies’ refusal to prepare an SEIS in view of the “serious issues” plaguing the Metro system, “which may have long-term effects on Metro ridership, only underscores how important it was for defendants to take the requisite hard look at the potential effect of Metro’s safety issues on future Purple Line ridership and any related environmental issues.”  The Court further opined that “WMATA and the FTA’s cavalier attitude toward these recent developments raises troubling concerns about their competence as stewards of nearly a billion dollars in federal taxpayers’ funds” that would be spent on the Purple Line.  The Court therefore vacated the Record of Decision approving the project and required the defendants to prepare an SEIS before it may proceed.

 A copy of the Court’s opinion is ­here, and a press release concerning the ruling is here.