Jerusalem light rail.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem’s Administrative Court on Tuesday rejected a petition filed by residents of the German Colony to block the Municipality’s approval of a contested light-rail line to be constructed on the community’s beloved main thoroughfare, Emek Refaim.
Construction of the Blue Line, a 20-km.-long route traversing Malha, Emek Refaim and Ramot, was approved by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat following a protracted and contentious series of meetings between city planners and hundreds of residents.
According to the municipality, the Blue Line, which will not break ground for at least four more years, will serve up to 250,000 residents from Gilo in the south, to Ramot in the north.
However, since the project was initially approved by the municipality’s Planning Committee last January, community leaders have contended that the construction will result in damage to historic buildings, bankruptcy for area businesses and a pronounced drop in their general quality of life.
The conflict came to a head in July, during a meeting at Emek Refaim’s Ginot Ha’ir Community Center between municipal officials and some 500 residents, who aired their grievances and demanded the project be put on hold to allow time for an analysis of how the line may damage the popular road.
Transportation Ministry official Shmuel Elgrabi said widespread concerns that construction will compromise area homes, trees and buildings dating back to the German Protestant Templers sect in the 1840s are misguided.
“None of the structures will be damaged, and there will be complete access to all houses at all times,” he said, adding that the ministry and municipality plan to plant “many more trees, just as when we planted around 4,000 trees along the Red Line.”
Nonetheless, City Councilwoman Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who also holds the city’s transportation and preservation portfolios, said between 80% and 90% of the community opposes the project.
Several weeks ago, the local community council presented Barkat with a comprehensive 100-page impact study by experts in multiple fields delineating why the line will damage the community, as well as an alternate plan that would redirect the route.
During his ruling, Judge David Mintz said the residents’ concerns received due diligence by the court and city agencies planning the new line.
“There is no doubt that the public... got many opportunities to bring their case before the respondents,” he said, adding: “I am not convinced that the plan justifies the court’s intervention in the planning process.”
After rejecting the community’s petition, Mintz ordered the petitioners to pay court costs of NIS 30,000.