According to someone who rides the trail often, work has started on Phase IV of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. As I noted in September
The current trail will be continued from its current terminus and then across a rehabilitated Sideling Hill Creek Bridge to the mouth of the Indigo Tunnel. There it will crossover onto the C&O Canal towpath via an access ramp and will follow the towpath around the bend in the river and back to the other side of the tunnel. Another crossover and ramp will connect the RR ROW to the towpath again, and then the trail will follow the ROW through Little Orleans and all the way to the MD edge of the 1st Potomac River crossing.
The section through Little Orleans will include a parking lot, access point to High Germany Road, a new bridge over High Germany Road, a repaired bridge over Fifteen Mile Creek and the 105' long tunnel beneath Pleasant Plains Road SE.
Anyway, this person reports that they were "at the western end of the trail in November and noticed that trees were being cleared past that point" and he suspected that this meant Phase IV had begun. That seems like a good guess, but I actually think it's part of unrelated repairs on the trail.
If you enjoy winter walks or bike rides along the Western Maryland Rail Trail around Hancock, note that detours and temporary closings will be in effect through Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources plans to clean parts of the trail and replace damaged guardrails and fencing. The work will be done in two phases, to the west of the Hancock town limits.
The first phase is Locher Road to Seavolt Road, and the second is from Seavolt Road to Pearre Road.
If work has started, we could expect it to end in 2018.
What I can confirm is that the WMRT got money for upgraded wayfinding and trail maintenance.