Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, right, speaks at a debate with his Republican competitor in the Maryland gubernatorial race, Larry Hogan, in Arlington. (Melina Mara/AP)

Democratic officials from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan for his opposition to building a light-rail Purple Line, saying the transit project is needed to add jobs and spur economic development in both counties.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), members of both county councils and several Democratic state lawmakers told reporters at a noon press conference in downtown Silver Spring that the line would be built only if Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is elected.

Supporters of building the 16-mile rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton held signs saying “Choose Brown, Choose Transit.”

Leggett said a Purple Line’s construction would be key to sustaining economic growth in places like Silver Spring.

“We have someone who steps in without any consultation, without any alternative plan . . . and says ‘I’m going to undo all of that,’ ” Leggett said of Hogan.

Mel Franklin (D), chair of the Prince George’s County Council, called Hogan’s lack of support for a Purple Line a “vision of abandonment, of despair, of neglect.”

The Maryland Transit Administration, under Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), has said a Purple Line would provide faster, more reliable east-west transit than buses and would rejuvenate older inner suburbs, particularly in Prince George’s. Opponents have said its estimated $2.45 billion in construction costs would be too expensive, and the line would destroy a popular wooded running and cycling trail while bringing train noise and vibrations to communities.

The event was organized by the state Democratic Party. Brown did not appear. A campaign spokesman said he was campaigning on the Eastern Shore.

Brown has said he supports building a Purple Line, in addition to building a Corridor Cities Transitway busway in the Interstate 270 corridor and a light-rail Red Line through downtown Baltimore. Together, the projects’ construction costs would exceed $5 billion, and transit lines generally require ongoing government subsidies to cover operating costs.

Hogan’s campaign immediately issued a press release noting the Purple Line’s growing price tag, which has doubled since its early planning stages.

“We simply cannot afford this project right now,” the release quoted Hogan as saying.

Instead, he said, Maryland’s “struggling families” need jobs and economic growth from attracting businesses.

He also has been quoted saying transportation funds would be better spent on repairing roads and highways.

Hogan took Brown to task for not appearing at the event, calling him “the increasingly invisible” lieutenant governor who did not appear “with more popular local leaders.”

State officials have said they hope to begin construction of a Purple Line in 2015 and open it to service in 2020, pending approval of $900 million in federal construction aid.