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Breaking Ground!

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After delays local leaders celebrate Purple Line construction

JGS 9049Gov. Larry Hogan and U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao at the Purple Line groundbreaking. PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTH  HYATTSVILLE – After 30 years of planning, workers finally broke ground on the Purple Line, the soon-to-be light rail line that will connect Metro stops in Montgomery County to Prince George’s County.

After the ceremony, workers began construction on the 16.2-mile $2 billion light rail line that will connect Bethesda Metro to New Carrolton Metro Station with 21 stops including at Silver Spring, Takoma/Langley Park and College Park.

Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-4), Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker were on hand for the signing and groundbreaking ceremony for the Purple Line.

Chao lauded the project saying the Purple Line is one of the largest public-private projects in the country. In April 2016, Hogan signed the $5.6 billion P3 contract to begin the long process of building the new rail system.

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Purple Line to receive $900 million in funds

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purpleline1 327x250According to Shareese Churchill, a spokesperson for Governor Larry Hogan, the light rail Purple Line project connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties may receive a $900 million federal funding agreement.

“The Hogan administration fully expects the Purple Line Full Funding Grant Agreement to be signed in the very near future,” said Churchill.

Churchill said the agreement frees up $325 million in federal funds already appropriated for the project. The agreement will total $900 million over the life of agreement.

"The Purple Line project will harness the power of the federal, state, county and private sector partners to get a major infrastructure project under construction and create jobs,” Maryland communications director Doug Mayer said. “It’s a major win for the state and local communities."

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Purple Line clears legal step

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A week after a panel of federal judges granted a stay, giving the paused Purple Line project new life, the County Council gave the go-ahead to the state transit administration to start work on the project.

On July 24, the Council approved a franchise agreement to allow the Maryland Transit Administration to build, operate and maintain the Purple Line in County owned right-of-ways. The unanimous agreement by the Council clears a legal step by giving the MTA the franchise agreement and authority to start working on the project on County-owned land.

The County will not charge the MTA for the new 70-year franchise agreement, citing “public benefits” for the project. Most of the County-owned land that the franchise agreement covers is in the Georgetown Branch area, a strip of land between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

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Purple Line is now back on track

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Federal judges granted a stay on lower court’s ruling on the Purple Line, clearing the way for the light rail project to move forward.

On Wednesday a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted the stay of District of Columbia District Court judge Richard Leon.

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State transportation secretary suspends part of Purple Line contract

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The Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary said he wants to put the brakes on spending for multiple parts of the light-rail Purple Line contract on May 31, according to a news release.

Secretary Pete Rahn had said he would alter the project, a public-private partnership, if District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard Leon failed to make a final decision on a lawsuit by June 1.

Leon made a final ruling, but then State Attorney General Brian Frosh appealed it. Rahn said Wednesday he wanted to be cautious about how the state and how Purple Line Transit Partners spent money for delays in the project, given the uncertainty of when the U.S. Court of Appeals would process Frosh’s appeal.

“With a legal path forward, MDOT’s and the Purple Line’s situation has changed from the unknown circumstances of just two weeks ago,” said Rahn. “With an unknown timeline for an appeal and dwindling available cash to carry the federal reimbursable costs being expended by MDOT; and to protect the taxpayers of Maryland, I am ordering that action be taken immediately.”

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Council hopeful for Purple Line continuation

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Council member Roger Berliner (D-1) said Leon’s ruling to allow the Federal Transit Administration to decide the significance of Metro ridership brings him new hope.

He said he is confident the end of the Purple Line hiatus is near.

Berliner said he believes there is no turning back after the judge’s order Nov. 22. He ordered the FTA to assess Metro’s ridership and safety issues and determine whether either will harm the Purple Line project. From there, FTA and the Maryland Transit Administration would determine whether they need to write a new environmental impact statement pertaining to Metro’s impact on the project.

“By opening the record and allowing the agencies to show him why they don’t think this Metro issue is relevant, he (Leon) will no longer be able to say they were arbitrary and capricious,” Berliner said. “He can only say, ‘I don’t agree but under the law, I can’t substitute my judgment for the agencies, therefore we’re done here.’”

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Purple Line on chopping block again

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BETHESDA – Crews were slated to begin construction work for the Purple Line Oct. 29, but cannot until a federal judge restores the Federal Transit Administration’s record of decision to approve the project, said Maryland Transit Administration Director Charles Lattucca.

Lattucca, who’s in charge of the Purple Line project, said he does not think a federal district court judge’s decision to put the Purple Line on hold will jeopardize the project.

“It kind of threw us for a loop,” Lattuca told group of 30 to 40 in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Services Center Sept. 29. “It was through a federal court judge, (who) vacated the record of decision, which is basically the stamp of approval on your environmental permit with the (FTA).”

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Soil sampling begins along Purple Line route

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Metro map

Work crews started testing soil in southern Montgomery County along the proposed path of the Purple Line Tuesday, a process expected to continue for several months.

The work began shortly after District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled construction-related work must be stopped until the state of Maryland re-evaluates and updates Metro ridership following recent safety problems. 

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Judge sidelines Purple Line for new study

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Metro map

 

A District Court judge ruled in a federal case that workers cannot continue construction related to the Purple Line until the state of Maryland re-evaluates Metro ridership following recent safety issues.

Richard Leon, District of Columbia District Court judge, said in the case of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail et al. Vs. Federal Transit Administration et al., the Maryland Transit Administration needs to update Metro ridership measurements because those used to calculate Purple Line ridership projections were collected in 2009, after which Metro ridership decreased.  

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