In court filing, Maryland argues for a 2-day delay on Purple Line work

DERWOOD, Md. — State officials have responded to the latest challenge to Purple Line construction, saying that the state could delay tree cutting along the Georgetown Branch Trail, scheduled for Sept. 18, by two days — but no more.

In the federal District Court filing — signed by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and by attorneys for state transportation officials — the state argued that continued delays sought by the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail could total $6.1 million.

The group wants all work suspended on the Georgetown Branch Trail — one segment of the Purple Line route that extends from Bethesda to Silver Spring.

The state argues that halting work on the trail could endanger the project, which is a complex amalgam of state and private interests. Specifically, the state argues, a delay of even a week would realistically result in a delay of up to four weeks, as contractors would have to reconfigure their schedules, and that alone could result in added holdups.

Suspending the tree-cutting operations to Sept. 20 would give plaintiffs a chance to have their motion for a preliminary injunction heard, the state contends. That hearing is set for Sept. 19.

On Thursday, at an event near the InterCounty Connector — another transportation project with a history of protracted legal battles — Gov. Larry Hogan was asked if the state had perhaps moved too fast to close the length of the Georgetown Branch Trail as it began work on the Purple Line.

“Well, we were delayed for over a year with a ludicrous lawsuit, and we were paying millions of dollars in late penalties,” Hogan said.

“We’re not moving too fast. It’s been much too slow. I would have preferred to start a year ago.”

On Thursday, Sen. Chris Van Hollen wrote to the Maryland Department of Transportation, saying the initial construction had gotten off to a “rocky start.” He urged transportation officials to revise the construction schedule and to ensure that trees are preserved “to the maximum extent possible.”

Van Hollen also asked that a hotline be set up so that residents could call in regarding any issues that arise during construction.

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