Maryland has put elements of the Purple Line light-rail project on hold while it appeals a legal ruling that has delayed the $5.6-billion public-private venture for nearly a year.

On May 31, Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahm directed the Fluor Corp.-led Purple Line Transit Partners consortium to suspend execution of new construction contracts and purchases of nonessential materials and equipment.

A hiring freeze also was ordered for both contractor and state oversight personnel.

The move came just days after a federal judge dismissed most of the original lawsuit that, on environmental grounds, sought to block construction of the 16-mile system. Maryland said it would appeal the suit’s remaining issue, which involves ridership projections.

Blaming protracted litigation for increasing the Purple Line’s costs and jeopardizing federal funding support, Maryland previously had suggested that the project might have to be cancelled entirely, a move that would have cost the state an estimated $800 million.

Purple Line Transit Partners has not commented on its project status, but the firm’s CEO in early May reaffirmed the consortium’s near-term commitment.