The Purple Line is Closer than You Might Think
The Purple Line light rail connection between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrolton in Prince Georges County recently has taken two big steps closer toward becoming a reality.
If you are unfamiliar with the project, the proposed Purple Line is a 16.2 mile east-west transit connection, primarily above ground, linking four Metro lines and three MARC commuter train lines. The project will serve the business centers of Bethesda, Silver Spring, Langley Park and New Carrolton, and places in between through 21 designated stations.
Under the current schedule, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) (the agency responsible for designing and constructing the Purple Line) plans to begin construction in 2015 and have it open for service in 2020.
Release of Final Environmental Impact Statement
The most recent action on the Purple Line is the release of the Purple Line Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on September 6, 2013. This is one in a series of federally mandated documents/studies that are prerequisites for the project to receive federal funding. The FEIS builds upon an alternatives analysis and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which led Governor O’Malley in 2009 to announce the current version of the Purple Line as the locally preferred alternative. Specifically, the FEIS assesses the potential transportation and environmental impacts and benefits of the preferred alternative. All stakeholders, including community organizations and individual citizens, will have until October 21, 2013 to review and comment upon the FEIS.
The Federal Transit Administration, which prepared the FEIS in cooperation with MTA, will then issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on whether the project meets federal funding criteria to move forward toward further design development. Under the current schedule, a ROD is expected by the end of this year. MTA has said that it will move immediately toward final design and acquisition of needed right-of-way once the Federal Transit Administration issues the ROD.
Purple Line Funding
This leads to the second recent development regarding project funding that promises to keep the Purple Line on schedule, pending a federal decision on funding. The Purple Line is projected to cost a total of $2.2 billion to build. Thanks to the Maryland gas tax increase voted by the legislature last March, on August 5, 2013, Governor O’Malley pledged state funding of $400 million for project construction. This is in addition to $280 million in state funds that had been designated last May for land acquisition. This leaves a state (or local) funding gap of approximately $420 million before federal matching funds would then cover the remaining project costs. In the governor’s August 5th funding announcement, he indicated that the state gap could be funded through a public-private partnership; however, details about the proposed partnership have not yet been released.
Properties Subject to Taking Under Eminent Domain
Current estimates indicate that at least several dozen properties, perhaps one hundred or more, will be subject to taking by the state for the Purple Line under eminent domain, the taking of private property for public use. An article on the basics of condemnation law can be found at http://www.lerchearly.com/publications/301-condemnation-essentials.
With recent FTA and state actions, the Purple Line is close to overcoming nearly all administrative and state/local funding hurdles that stand in the way of a federal decision on funding. While no date has been set on whether the federal government will fund its $1.1 billion portion of the Purple Line, most of the reasons for not funding the project or for deferring a decision on funding have been (or are being) addressed.
Lerch, Early & Brewer is committed to the Purple Line as an essential transit connection for the DC metropolitan region. At the same time, we are able to help property owners and businesses evaluate and capitalize on whatever individual Purple Line impacts they may face. Our firm’s condemnation team has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America in the field of condemnation and eminent domain. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients in compensation and damages. Patrick O’Neil is a land use attorney at Lerch Early in Bethesda, Maryland who works with real estate developers and property owners on land use and zoning issues. He also advocates for property owners whose land has been condemned under eminent domain in order to obtain just compensation for their property. For more information on the Purple Line, contact Patrick at (301) 657-0738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.