Wearing a green cancer awareness pin and a purple tie, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan officially gave the go-ahead for the Purple Line this afternoon.
Hogan—who campaigned hard on his opposition to the light rail line—directed his new administration to study the proposal and find ways to get costs down before deciding on its fate. He announced today that the approval is contingent on the project receiving $900 million in federal funding, several design changes, and increased contributions from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which he declined to enumerate. The state would then be responsible for $168 million, he said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn also noted several changes that brings costs from a “Cadillac project” to a “Chevy” one, in his words, though it will have the same alignment and number of stations as proposed. He said that reducing train intervals from every 6 minutes to 7.5 minutes, for example, would reduce the number of cars that have to be purchased and eliminate the need for a second staging area.
“Governor Hogan’s decision to build the Purple Line is good news for Marylanders,” the Action Committee for Transit Statement said in a release. “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.”
Coalition for Smarter Growth executive director Stewart Schwartz echoed those fears about how the cost-saving measures would impact the project: “We are concerned about proposed changes to lower the costs, especially the decision to not build the second staging area for light rail cars, which could lead to poorer service,” he said.
It wasn’t an easy decision, Hogan said, adding that bringing the costs down and looking at the benefits in terms of economic development and job creation helped sway his decision. “We spent five months, tons of time and effort to come to the right decision and I think it is the right one.”
He came to the opposite conclusion regarding a proposed light-rail project in Baltimore, nixing the Red Line project as “fatally flawed.”
“We are not opposed to public transportation, but we are opposed to wasteful boondoggles,” he said. The Red Line “needs to be set aside and we will look for other ways to assist Baltimore with their transportation needs.”
Among the things working against that proposal, Rahn said, is the part that calls for major $1 billion tunnel through the heart of the city.
Hogan also announced nearly $2 billion in spending for a slate of new road, bridge, and highway investments, while repeatedly slamming Martin O’Malley’s administration for neglecting them. Those included both projects already in the works as well $848 million for new highway and bridge construction. “These critical investments will finally give our administration the ability to repair and maintain Maryland’s road system, which has suffered from years of chronic underfunding,” Hogan said, emphasizing that the money will go toward projects in every single county in the state.
The conference was Hogan’s first public appearance since announcing a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma earlier this week. He gave an update to his condition, saying that a bone marrow test came back negative for cancer, meaning that it is stage 3, to sustained applause.
“The outpouring of support has been incredible. Thousands of people have been reaching out. I can’t thank people enough,” the governor said. He will check into the hospital on Monday for four days of the round-the-clock chemotherapy. “It’s a terrible thing to have this come up, but the good part is the outpouring of friendship and well wishes—from all across the aisle. Some of our little squabbles don’t seem nearly as important.”
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