Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee for transportation secretary was unanimously approved by a Senate committee Monday, a week after the panel delayed the vote to address questions about the future of the state’s light-rail projects.
Pete K. Rahn, the former head of transportation in Missouri and New Mexico, was grilled before the vote, and at his last appearance before the panel, about his commitment to the Purple and Red lines and his philosophy on transportation.
“We’ve got to do whatever it takes to address the needs of our citizens and businesses,” Rahn said. He added that the Purple Line, a 16-mile light-rail project that would connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, is under review.
Rahn was one of more than a dozen nominees approved by the executive nominations committee Monday, including members of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and the Economic Development Commission. The entire Senate has yet to vote on the nominations of Rahn and others.
The committee put off until next week a vote on R. Michael Gill, Hogan’s nominee as secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, after Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) said she wanted more time to question him about diversity at the agency.
Conway and Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) also expressed concerns about whether there was enough diversity among the candidates for the Board of Regents.
With regard to Rahn, senators had previously raised concerns that his experience was focused largely on highways. Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), chairman of the panel, said Monday that Rahn had proved he understands the complexity of Maryland’s transportation system, which includes highways, public transit, airports and ports.
“I think he understands the importance of a balanced transportation opportunity in a state like ours,” Raskin said.
Several Baltimore lawmakers, who ultimately voted for Rahn, raised concerns about the future of the Red Line, a planned 14-mile east-west connection in Baltimore. They objected to the project appearing to take a back seat to the Purple Line.
“The longer you wait, the more expensive it will become,” said Pugh. “I’m looking for a commitment to evaluate the project in good faith.”
Rahn said teams at the Department of Transportation will consider cost reductions for the Red Line after their review of the Purple Line. He told the panel about how, when he was growing up, his family was affected at times by a lack of transportation.
Rahn said his father worked as a laborer and was unable to get to his job when his car broke down because there was no rail system available. When his father was hospitalized, his mother had trouble getting bus service to visit him.
“It’s a real important issue for me, getting people where they need to go,” Rahn said. “I have a very personal experience with the lack of transportation and what it means to people in the real world.”