D.C. Streetcar Project|to Continue, Judge Says

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge declined to halt construction of Washington, D.C.’s ambitious streetcar system that’s already underway in the northeast part of the city.
     The Kingman Park Civil Association sued D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray earlier this year and sought a court order blocking the city from constructing the first wave of the streetcar system.
     “Upon consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the court finds that the plaintiff is not likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, the plaintiff is not likely to suffer irreparable injury absent emergency relief, and the balance of the equities do not favor injunctive relief,” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled.
     The first leg of the project consists of 2.2 miles of track stretching from Benning Road through the revitalized H Street corridor and will connect Benning Road to Union Station.
     In some respects, construction has been underway since 2008, when H Street was prepped with new parking lanes, sidewalks, street lights and streetcar tracks.
     The streetcars “will be powered by quiet electric motors, and use a pole and pantograph to collect power from an electrified wire that is suspended approximately 20 feet over the lane on which it runs,” according to the mayor’s opposition.
     The city says it plans to build a “car barn” training center on the grounds of the Joel Elias Spingarn Senior High School, which was recently declared a historic landmark after being shut down in July.
     Members of the neighborhood association worry that track vibrations and noise could crack the walls and foundations of their houses, and that the massive excavation – which has already begun – could affect air quality, according to the ruling.
     “However, none of these individuals allege that they live or work in close proximity to Spingarn Senior High School such that they might be exposed to any alleged hazardous materials released by the construction activity, or that they will be forced to change their behavior in any manner,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.
     She added: “In sum, Kingman Park is not likely to succeed in showing any of its members is substantially likely to suffer an injury-in-fact such that they would have standing to sue in their own right as to any of the aspects of the H Street line at issue in the amended complaint.”
     Though the association itself has standing, Kollar-Kotelly added, it is “unlikely to succeed” on its claim that a 2010 law authorizing the streetcar system will have a disparate impact on black and low-income residents of Kingman Park.
      “The 2010 Act authorized the installation of overhead wires for streetcar lines in all eight wards of the District of Columbia, not just Kingman Park or other predominantly African-American communities,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote.     
     She also noted that granting temporary relief to the group would drop a large financial burden on the city, saying “the District of Columbia would be forced to expend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars if installation of the overhead wires on the H Street line and construction on the Spingarn campus is delayed for even just a few months.”
     The judge denied the group’s motion for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order.

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