United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. ## 49, 50]
RICHARD J. LEON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail ("FCCT"),
John MacKnight Fitzgerald, Christine Real De Azua, and Anna
C. Haac (collectively, "plaintiffs") filed this
suit against the Federal Transit Administration
("FTA"), the United States Department of
Transportation, and the Maryland Department of Transportation
(collectively, "defendants") to stop construction
of a 16.2-mile light rail transit project in Montgomery and
Prince George's Counties, Maryland. The project, known as
the Purple Line project, is being funded in part by a grant
from the federal government, and plaintiffs allege that the
grant was issued in violation of federal law.
of course, is not plaintiffs' first foray in their fight
against the Purple Line. In August 2014, FCCT and two of the
three individual plaintiffs in this case brought a
"challenge under the National Environmental Policy Act
to Maryland's proposed 'Purple Line' light rail
project." Friends of Capital Crescent Trail v. FT
A, 877 F.3d 1051, 1054 (D.C. Cir. 2017) ("FCCT
I”). Our Circuit Court ultimately rejected that
challenge. See Id. at 1066. And shortly after the
Court permitted FTA to proceed, the agency committed
approximately $900 million to Maryland's project.
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 46, 69 [Dkt. # 45].
Undaunted, plaintiffs filed this new suit upon learning that
FTA had issued its grant, and defendants have now moved to
dismiss all pending claims.
for the plaintiffs, this second attempt to stop the Purple
Line fares no better than their first. A suit like this one,
which raises Administrative Procedure Act ("APA")
challenges to determinations made by a federal agency, may
proceed only if plaintiffs are timely seeking review of a
final agency action and only if plaintiffs' standing to
sue arises from an injury that falls arguably within the zone
of interests protected by the statute the agency is alleged
to have violated. The claims in plaintiffs' amended
complaint each fail one of these requirements. Accordingly,
defendants' motions to dismiss this suit must be GRANTED.
2003, Maryland applied for federal funding to support its
Purple Line project through FTA's "New Starts"
program. See FCCT I, 877 F.3d at 1055. The "New
Starts" program, governed by 49 U.S.C. § 5309,
supports public transit systems, including rapid rail, light
rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and ferry systems,
throughout the country. See Major Capital Investment
Projects, 78 Fed. Reg. 1992, 1993 (Jan. 9, 2013). State and
local governmental authorities are permitted to submit
"New Starts" applications, which undergo several
phases of FTA review and are evaluated according to
statutorily prescribed criteria before federal funds are
committed to any project. See 49 U.S.C. § 5309.
When an application for a "new fixed guideway capital
project," like the Purple Line, passes the required
evaluations, FTA awards a full funding grant agreement
("FFGA") to the applicant. Id. §
5309(k). The FFGA commits federal funds to support the
applicant's project. See id.
prerequisite for an FFGA is the applicant's
"completion of [the] activities required under the
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969"
("NEPA"). 49 U.S.C. § 5309(d)(2)(A) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.). These activities must
be completed during the initial "project
development" phase of a "New Starts"
application, and in the case of the Purple Line, FTA
certified Maryland's completion of NEPA's
requirements in a March 2014 record of decision
("ROD"). See FCCT I, 877 F.3d at 1056-57.
The ROD touched off the first round of litigation about the
Purple Line's environmental impact but did not ultimately
derail Maryland's application. See Id. In late
August 2017, after our Circuit "reinstated [the ROD]
pending appeal," Order at 2, FCCT I, No.
17-5132 (D.C. Cir. July 19, 2017), FTA issued an FFGA
committing about $900 million in grant money to
Maryland's Purple Line project, Am. Compl. ¶¶
46, 69. § 1.91(a) ("The Federal Transit
Administrator is delegated authority to carry out. . .
Chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code, and notes
thereto."); see also 49 U.S.C. § 322; 49
C.F.R. § 1.90(a).
days, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit and moved for a temporary
restraining order, seeking to prevent Maryland from starting
construction of the Purple Line. See Compl. at 36
[Dkt. # 1]; Mot. for Temp. Restraining Order [Dkt. #2].
Maryland's Department of Transportation agreed not to
begin the challenged construction work until a motion for a
preliminary injunction could be briefed and heard.
See Order at 2-3 (Sept. 8, 2017) [Dkt. #14]. On
September 22, 2017, having held hearings on both the
temporary restraining order and the preliminary injunction, I
denied plaintiffs' requests for interim relief and
allowed construction to begin. See Mem. Order at 5
(Sept. 22, 2017) [Dkt. # 28]. In my Order denying
plaintiffs' motions, I expressed doubt that plaintiffs
could prove the two violations of 49 U.S.C. § 5309 they
were asserting at the time, and I noted the substantial
"jurisdictional 'impediments to even reaching the
merits' of [either] claim." Id. at 3-4
(quoting Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 690 (2008)).
then moved to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiffs amended their
pleading in response and now raise six claims, each brought
pursuant to Section 706 of the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706.
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 106, 111, 127, 134, 139,
151. Plaintiffs allege that, by funding and beginning
construction of the Purple Line, defendants have violated
"49 U.S.C. § 5309, 49 U.S.C. § 303; ... 54
U.S.C. §§ 306108, 306113; [and] Sections 101 and
102 of NEPA." Id. at 48; see also Id.
¶¶ 96-151. Defendants filed new
motions to dismiss, arguing that the amended
complaint still does not state a claim upon which relief can
be granted that falls within this Court's jurisdiction,
and their motions are ripe.
motions to dismiss raise arguments under Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).
Rule 12(b)(1), 'the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing the factual predicates of jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence.'" Hunter v.
FERC, 569 F.Supp.2d 12, 15 (D.D.C. 2008) (quoting
Lindsey v. United States, 448 F.Supp.2d 37, 42
(D.D.C.2OO6)). "[T]he Court 'must accept as true all
well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiffs, '" but
because "the inquiry focuses on the Court's power to
hear the claim, the Court may give the plaintiffs factual
allegations closer scrutiny and may consider materials
outside the pleadings." Logan v. Dep't of
Veterans Affairs, 357 F.Supp.2d 149, 153 (D.D.C. 2004)
(quoting Fitts v. Federal Nat'l Mortgage Ass
'n, 44 F.Supp.2d 317, 321 (D.D.C. 1999)).
court will only dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim if 'it appears beyond doubt that
the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim which would entitle him to relief.'"
Logan, 357 F.Supp.2d at 153 (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Plaintiffs must be
"grant[ed] ... the benefit of all inferences that can be
derived from the facts alleged," but "the court
need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such
inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the
complaint." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16
F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). "[L]egal conclusions
cast in the form of factual allegations" likewise need
not be accepted by a court deciding whether a claim satisfies
Rule 12(b)(6). Id.
second attempt to stop the Purple Line project,
plaintiffs' have reframed their claims, added new factual
allegations, and alleged additional errors by the agencies
overseeing the project. Unsurprisingly, however, they brought
their strongest case the first time around. All of
plaintiffs' refashioned claims must be dismissed.
Plaintiffs' Alleged Injuries Do Not Fall Within the Zone
of Interests Protected or Regulated by the Asserted