A federal judge declined to issue an immediate ruling Tuesday that would halt construction of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail transit system set to run through the University of Maryland campus.
After a year-long delay, construction on the line began in Hyattsville last month. Earlier in September, small trees and plants along the Georgetown Branch Trail in Montgomery County began to be cleared, and larger trees were supposed to come down starting this week.
But local officials issued a request to halt tree-clearing along the trail, claiming they were notified only seven days in advance — not 30 days, the previously agreed to time frame — before the trail was closed for tree clearing, according to The Washington Post. Local officials and some initial Purple Line supporters expressed concerns that this change blindsided the public.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn confirmed the time frame changes to reporters on Sept. 7, noting the notification period was shortened to make up for work lost due to delays caused by the legal case, according to The Post.
Other aspects of the contract, including landscaping measures, will not be changed, Rahn said.
At the same time, opponents of the line argued Tuesday that the quality and funding of the existing transportation network were not properly assessed before the Maryland Transit Administration and the federal government signed a $900 million funding agreement, WTOP reported.
The federal and state government submitted the findings to the judge and await a full opinion, which U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said would likely take at least a month, WTOP reported.
In declining to issue an immediate ruling Tuesday, Leon allowed construction to resume. Tree clearing along the Georgetown Branch Trail is set to begin Monday, but advances in the ruling of any of the legal troubles facing the line will delay construction further.
The losing side in the tree clearing case is expected to appeal the ruling in court, The Post reported.
The Purple Line is facing other legal challenges, which have also delayed the ruling of this case.
An appeal of Leon's initial ruling to re-evaluate the line's ridership with the consideration of Metro ridership decline is scheduled to be presented before an appeals court panel Nov. 1.
The delays are estimated to add millions to the overall cost and are likely to postpone the 2022 completion of the project.