ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Larry Hogan is moving forward with the Purple Line provided that Montgomery and Prince George's counties increase their contributions, he announced June 25.
Hogan declined to reveal the amounts expected from each county, but said those negotiations were ongoing. The total cost of the Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail project from Bethesda to New Carrollton, would have been $2.45 billion. The cost-saving measures -- including 7.5 minutes instead of six minutes between trains -- will bring the state contribution down from almost $700 million to $168 million, Hogan said.
“Public transportation is important, but it is vital that we invest hard-earned taxpayer dollars into those projects that will help the greatest number of our citizens in our state. We’re not opposed to mass transit, but we do oppose wasteful and irresponsible spending on poorly conceived projects that waste taxpayers’ money,” Hogan said. “I’ve always said that this decision was never about whether public transit was worthwhile but whether it is affordable and makes economic sense ... by reducing this cost we’ve freed up hundreds of millions of dollars for other important projects across Maryland.”
Now that Hogan has decided to move forward, the state will let the four teams bidding on the project know of the new plan. State Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn said he estimated it would be between 120 and 150 days before the state announced its chosen proposal. He could not say how soon construction would begin or when people could begin riding the train.
Under the original proposal, construction was to start this year and finish in 2020. The Purple Line is being built through a public-private partnership, which means a private concessionaire also takes on some of the costs in addition to designing and constructing the project.
Proponents of the Purple Line said they were very happy with the decision despite the cost-saving measures and now await the counties’ decisions on increased contributions to the transit project. Christine Scott, executive director of Purple Line Now, said she is “cautiously optimistic.”
“We’re happy and encouraged by his announcement. We want to see the details; we want to know how the counties are going to react to the increased dollar figure perhaps on their load. But we -- at least I personally -- understand that he got it, he understands the jobs that are coming as a result of the PL, the economic benefit to our region and connecting the two counties most especially,” Scott said.
Hogan said some job estimates seemed doubtful to him, but it is nonetheless clear the Purple Line will spur economic development.
The two counties along with the Greater Washington Board of Trade recently commissioned a study to reiterate the economic development and job creation that the Purple Line would spark. The study shows the Purple Line will lead to an extra year’s growth in the economy, 23,033 more permanent jobs, a $12.8 billion increase in property values and a $1.8 billion increase in income per year, according to consultant Alexander Metcalf, who conducted the study.
Montgomery County officials have spoken out in favor of the Purple Line and Council President George Leventhal (D-At large) said in the past that Hogan would be picking a “fight” if he decided to do away with the project altogether. At the June 20 opening of the Silver Spring library, County Executive Ike Leggett said he sent a picture of the future Purple Line stop crowded with people to the governor to show the community’s excitement.
On Monday, Leventhal said he was happy with Hogan’s decision.
“The proposal to reduce some aspects of the project and to put more of a financial burden on Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will create substantial challenges, but every aspect of working toward the creation of the Purple Line has had its share of challenges, and in every case, we have found solutions. We will put some more creative thought and energy into this challenge, and we will again find solutions. When a project is this important to future generations of your residents, that is what must be done.”
The Action Committee for Transit criticized the cost-saving measures. "We are disappointed, however, that the governor chose to reduce the train frequency and passenger-carrying capacity. In all likelihood, future administrations will have to buy more cars. We ask MNCPPC planners to preserve the land needed for expanded storage and maintenance facilities. Meanwhile, we look forward to working with the Maryland Transit Administration to ensure that this light rail-line is built quickly and offers the best possible service within these limitations."
Congressman Chris Van Hollen praised the decision. "I’m pleased that the governor has not closed the door to the Purple Line and recognizes the positive impact it will have, but he has asked Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to shoulder considerable additional burden and opened the door to altering the plans. I’m troubled by these changes and will be reviewing the impact to ensure commitments made to communities along the route are met."
"Look forward to further discussions with the governor over every aspect of the Purple Line – cost, design, construction schedule, and the role Montgomery County will be able to play in making the Purple Line a reality," said County Executive Ike Leggett.
Hogan also announced $2 billion in improvements to and new construction on roads, highways and bridges throughout the state. The funding, which he said comes from taking back some of the money the previous administration removed from the transportation fund, also includes $845 million in newly funded “top priority projects.”
In Montgomery County, it will involve $100 milion to reduce congestion on I-270 and Prince George’s County will see $200 million to build a full interchange between I-495 and I-95 near Greenbelt for the potential new FBI headquarters.