The Trail at Rock Creek looking towards Jones Mill Road - May 2016 vs January 2020
Court issues ruling as Purple Line mess continues

Can we ever restore the trail?

The decision by the court last week closes a long legal chapter in the fight for the trail, green space, and accountability. But that question, and the fight, remain as current as ever.

The court ruling regarding the Purple Line now leaves the protection of the public, waters, trail and parks up to elected officials who should restore the trail and go back to the drawing board in light of all that people have been through and learned in the history of the Purple Line and the pandemic. Much less costly alternatives exist that would truly benefit the public.
The legal fight exposed many flaws in the Purple Line
The courts, in each of our cases, recognized that Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and its allies had standing and ruled that our suits could proceed. In our lawsuits we exposed many flaws in the Purple Line and received an award for that service from the Montgomery County Civic Federation.

Exorbitant cost, misleading ridership assumptions to justify predetermined outcomes, destruction of a beloved public trail and 48 acres of forest, failure to uphold commitments made in the Record of Decision... These and many other flaws are clear for all to see now as the Purple Line sinks in a fiscal, contractual and environmental mess of Maryland's own creation.

Thank you all!

Our lawsuits built on the advocacy, work, expertise, and support of so many who came forth in this cause and helped fight the good fight to uphold the law and hold decision-makers accountable.

There were at least three laws which the Maryland and federal agencies, in our plain reading of these laws (National Environmental Policy Act, transportation law, Clean Water Act), skirted in designing and in spending taxpayer dollars for the boondoggle that is the Purple Line, but the agencies could be challenged in court only after specifc actions broke the specific law (for example, the permit to dredge and fill Rock Creek and other wetlands and streams was issued only well after clear-cutting of the trees and construction had begun). The support and dedication of so many Friends of the trail remained steadfast over these years.

We also thank our lead attorney David Brown for his steadfast service in all three of our cases and our other attorneys and many supporters who fought the good fight to uphold the law. David has generously donated his own time, and we couldn't have brought or sustained this effort of many years without him. We do need to raise $2,665, however, in order to compensate his dedicated paralegal assistant at Knopf & Brown for her last long hours of administrative assistance in this case. Any donation you can make towards that sum will therefore be very much appreciated. Donations are tax-deductible. Any funds remaining in excess will support Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail as it moves forward in its mission of restoring green space.

You can donate online or send a check to:
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail
PO Box 5803
Bethesda MD 20824

Again, thank you all! And...

Stay involved!

Elected officials need to be held accountable for their promises, and for their mistakes. Surely they need to deliver on their promises that a Trail would be rebuilt, that it would include a safe tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue for pedestrians and bicyclists, and that Trail closures would be "minimized".

More broadly, now is an opportunity to rethink our environmental, transportation, and budgetary priorities, across the board, including and not limited to the Purple Line. Surely such rethinking would lead to the conclusion that the better choice is to fully restore the trail and to improve transit on existing roads without further disruption to our parks and waterways.

Make your voice heard!


Ajay Bhatt, President
Jim Roy, Vice President
Christine Real de Azua, member of the Board
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail

Statement by John Fitzgerald, co-plaintiff in the lawsuits:

"Central to this story are the MTA's questionable calculations in transit time and ridership over modern bus rapid transit service. The MTA never responded in detail to any of the several independent experts who founded that those estimates were virtually impossible to achieve.

The 4th Circuit and the Corps, like the D.C. Circuit in the first case, relied on the MTA's estimated "improvements" in transit time and ridership over modern bus rapid transit service in its decision that the Corps did not need to look any further than the alternatives the MTA had set up and designed to fail a standard that the MTA designed, applied and graded by itself.

In the second case, we asked the court to determine if the FTA and MTA had complied with the Federal law that requires them to show they have enough resources to maintain the region's existing transportation system without any decline in service before building any new element of that system with a Federal grant. Although they failed to show that given three chances by the court, we were not able to prevail because the court ruled that our environmental interests were not within the zone of interests that the court deemed to be protected by the Federal law providing aid to transportation projects even though it called for the Secretary to determine if a project were justified based on its environmental and other benefits and costs.

Our loss in the second case has surely made the public wait for repairs to Metrorail and for essential bus service that could have been more readily paid for as the MTA bills the public for billions more for a Light Rail version would cost several times more for an estimated very few minutes of faster transit to work. Moreover, many now work from home or seek other means of getting to work that will not expose them to serious health risks.

The decision recently released by the 4th Circuit leaves the protection of the public, waters, trail and parks up to elected officials who should restore the trail and go back to the drawing board in light of all the public has been through and learned in the history of the Purple Line and the pandemic."