Purple Line rendering Credit: MTA

Two Chevy Chase residents and the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail advocacy group have expanded their federal lawsuit against the federal government over the Purple Line to include stormwater runoff impacts, lack of public access to information and possible congestion problems related to the light-rail line.

The move comes after biologists hired by the advocacy group were unable to locate any of the endangered, tiny shrimp-like creatures called amphipods in the proposed path of the Purple Line. Originally, the lawsuit, filed in August 2014, focused on the harm that building the Purple Line would cause to the endangered amphipods and whether the project would violate the Endangered Species Act.

Now the plaintiffs have amended their complaint and are claiming the federal government didn’t adequately address several issues in its environmental impact statement, which was approved in March 2014 and permits federal funding to be used for the project.

The lawsuit was filed by Chevy Chase residents John Fitzgerald, a lawyer, and Christine Real de Azua, an energy and environment consultant, in addition to the Friends advocacy group that has long opposed the Purple Line.

“As we make clear today, the Purple Line is ‘not as advertised’: we have found a systematic tilting of the analysis towards a predetermined outcome, which we believe will not withstand the scrutiny of the law and which no amount of Purple Line [public relations] can paper over,” Fitzgerald said in a press release about the amended complaint.

The amended complaint claims that significant amounts of stormwater could enter the Rock Creek and Anacostia watersheds as a result of the project; that noise and traffic congestion, particularly in “minority and low-income communities,” has not been properly assessed; and that proprietary information was used as a basis for the Purple Line’s ridership estimates, which has hampered the public’s ability to comment on the project.

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“Our lawsuit, in fact, raises some of the very same questions that we hope Governor Larry Hogan and his team are examining right now, including full costs and risks, and the assessment of reasonable alternatives,” Ajay Bhatt, president of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, said in the release. The complaint states that several of the most congested routes in the county run north-south and would not be alleviated by the east-west rail line that would run from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda.

The complaint also notes that Bhatt recently won a case in Montgomery County Circuit Court brought by the county, which was trying to force him to move his fence from its position in the planned Purple Line right-of-way. The right-of-way was acquired by the county from CSX in the 1980s, and is currently the site of the Capital Crescent Trail.

“The court found, that [Bhatt] appears to have at the very least a valid adverse possession claim that overrides any interest in the land the County claimed to have acquired in a 1980s quitclaim deed from what is now CSX Railroad,” the complaint says. “In the litigation, the County disclosed that there are scores of property owners whose similar claims could stall the Purple Line if the decision in Mr. Bhatt’s case is not reversed on appeal.”

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Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and staff at the Maryland Transit Administration are  reviewing the estimated $2.45 billion Purple Line project to try to figure out ways to reduce its cost.

Hogan is expected to make a decision by mid-May on whether to move forward with the project.

Amended Purple Line Federal Lawsuit Complaint

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