Hogan Backs One Md. Rail Transit Line, Rejects One; Puts $1.97B on Roads, Bridges

AASHTO Journal, 26 June 2015

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave conditional backing to building the proposed “Purple Line” rail transit line in the Washington, D.C., suburbs but rejected a “Red Line” light rail system for Baltimore, and said he would direct $1.97 billion in new spending to state roads and bridges.

Hogan announced his transportation system plans in both a June 25 press release and a news conference that also included remarks by Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn.

The governor, who took office in January, said: “Today, I’m delivering on my promise to provide nearly $2 billion in funding to our highways and bridges across the state. This investment not only will move long-awaited highway projects into construction, so that Maryland families and businesses will benefit from safer, smoother roads, but also it will address every single structurally deficient bridge in the state. Building, maintaining, and fixing Maryland’s roads and bridges is a top priority of our administration.”

His office said those upgrades will get under way by 2018, and include $1.35 billion in new construction projects and $625 million in preservation. The $1.35 billion in new projects includes $500 million to fix bridges and improve roads.

For the Purple Line – a 22-mile rail route that would connect with the existing D.C.-area Metro subway system – Hogan said he has the Maryland Department of Transportation “to move forward with a more cost-effective and streamlined version” that cuts the state’s proposed cost share to $168 million from what could have been nearly $700 million.

He said the state backing depends on getting $900 million in federal funds, plus increased contributions from the two Maryland counties where the line would operate. The Purple Line’s estimated total cost, after counting project savings the state identified, is a reported $2.45 billion.

“I have always said this decision was never about whether public transit was worthwhile, but whether it is affordable and makes sense,” said Hogan. “In reducing costs here, hundreds of millions of dollars will become available for other important projects,” he said, but added that “the Purple Line is a long-term investment that will be an important economic driver for our state.”

However, Hogan said, “the Red Line as currently designed is not going to be built.” He told reporters that proposal “doesn’t make any economic sense at all.” Hogan said: “The Red Line is at this point – is tabled. But we are going to look at every possible option for improving transportation in Baltimore. We’re going to be open to all kinds of suggestions.”

Rahn said the proposed Baltimore transit line, variously reported to cost $2.6 billion to $2.9 billion, was “fatally flawed” by including a $1 billion tunnel under the city.

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