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Judge’s Ruling Puts Purple Line in Jeopardy in Maryland

Purple Line rendering (Credit: Maryland Transit Administration)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Judge Throws Another Monkey Wrench in Path of Maryland’s Purple Line
Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland transportation officials are increasingly worried that the Purple Line may die a death by a thousand cuts, the latest of which, The Washington Post reports, was made by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon.

Leon ruled May 21 that Maryland officials must re-examine their projections for ridership on the suburban Washington light-rail project in light of the Washington Metro’s declining ridership and ongoing safety problems. The ruling keeps in place a hold the judge had placed on construction of the line after opponents sued to halt the project.

When Leon first issued the hold last summer, radio station WTOP reports, he instructed the Federal Transit Administration to determine whether a supplemental environmental review would be needed for the Purple Line in light of the deteriorating WMATA ridership picture. The FTA responded with a finding that many riders would use the line anyway and that WMATA’s safety issues would likely be resolved by the time the line opens.

In his ruling, Leon rejected that argument. The hold has delayed the start of construction by seven months already and thrown into jeopardy a $900 million full funding grant agreement from the federal government that would cover half the line’s construction cost. Maryland officials are reported in the Post as saying that if they can find “no foreseeable path” to resolving the lawsuit by June 1, the state would have to suspend all design and planning work on the line. If another 60 days pass from that point without any promise of progress, the state would be forced to cancel the public-private partnership to build the line. Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said in a court filing that cancellation could cost the state as much as $800 million in sunk costs and contract termination fees.

Lausanne to Begin Work on Metro Expansion
The Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport in Switzerland’s Vaud member state has two contracts that will start the ball rolling on a planned expansion of the Lausanne metro system, the International Railway Journal reports.

Work on Line M2 in Lausanne (Photo by  Rama)

The work, which is being carried out as part of the Strong Public Transport Corridors Program, will address capacity issues on the second of the city’s two existing metro lines and add an all-new third metro route. Line M2, which has a design capacity of 25 million passengers annually, carried 28 million in 2014. Under the program, additional rolling stock will be purchased for the line and a single-track tunnel bottleneck will be eliminated with the construction of a parallel two-track tunnel between Grançy and Flon stations. The tunnel will also contain a new station under the Lausanne Swiss Federal Railways station, and the existing tunnel will continue to be used for a shuttle service that will operate at three-minute intervals between the railway station and Flon. The work on Line M2 will be completed in 2023.

A new Line M3, scheduled to begin service by the end of 2025, will connect the railway station with the city’s airport at Blécherette. The 4-km (2.5-mile) line will have seven stations.

The contracts cover engineering services for both the new metro lines and for equipment.

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