WASHINGTON -- Construction preparations for the World War II Memorial on the National Mall can go ahead as planned, a federal judge ruled Thursday, turning aside a lawsuit seeking to postpone the project.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prevented the government from signing construction projects to build the memorial between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
The National Coalition to Save Our Mall, which opposes the design and placement of the memorial, filed a lawsuit in October that charged the memorial's review process violated federal laws. The group said that its case would be hurt if the government is allowed to sign contracts and put resources into the project.
Justice Department attorney Silas DeRoma said in court Wednesday that the restraining order against contracts was unnecessary because actual construction work on the site wouldn't begin until after the Fourth of July festivities on the Mall.
"Congress has spoken very clearly here," he said. "Congress intended that the memorial be built."
This latest challenge was prompted by legislation signed by President Bush last week that places planning for the memorial outside the normal regulatory process, an effort to end the coalition's lawsuit and other procedural delays.
Andrea Ferster, an attorney for the coalition, argued that the new law doesn't apply to the part of their lawsuit that charges the project's planners violated environmental regulations by not fully considering the memorial's impact on the Mall.
She said construction would stir up soil contaminated with arsenic and the sunken design of the memorial would be vulnerable to frequent flooding.
The coalition's attorneys also charged that the new law violates the Constitution by overriding the review process in the courts.
Construction of the memorial should be completed sometime in early 2004, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission. The design calls for a circle of granite pillars representing the states and two four-story arches to signify victory in Europe and Asia.
Critics, including some veterans, have said the design is too grandiose and would clutter the Mall and obstruct the sweeping views.
Many veterans groups support the memorial, however, including the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization.
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