The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Timing of Hogan decision on Purple Line could cost Maryland

Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) has said he’ll wait until he’s sworn in Jan. 21 to announce whether he’ll cancel construction of a $2.45-billion Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

But waiting until then could end up costing the state $8 million.

To increase the number of companies bidding on the light-rail project, the Maryland Transit Administration offered to pay a “stipend” of up to $2 million each for bid proposals that weren’t accepted. The bidders are four teams of private companies — some of them are international transit giants — that have spent more than a year preparing highly technical proposals for a 35-year public-private partnership to design, build, operate and maintain a 16-mile Purple Line, as well as help finance its construction.

Bid proposals are due Jan. 9. MTA spokesman Paul Shepard said the stipend would be paid only after proposals are submitted, meaning the payment requirement could kick in two weeks before Hogan takes office.

When Hogan was asked Tuesday at a parade in St. Mary’s County about his stance on issues, such as whether to move forward on a Purple Line, Hogan said, “They should just keep on guessing, because I’m going to be governor Jan. 21, and we will start talking about policy then.”

Hogan said during the campaign that a Purple Line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, as well as a $2.9 billion Red Line in Baltimore, would be too expensive. The state’s transportation funds, Hogan said, would be better spent on road projects.

Officials in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, where many plans to increase development depend on building the light-rail line, have said they will lobby the Hogan administration to keep the project. Opponents of the light-rail line say they hope the governor-elect will take a closer look at its costs and explore less expensive ways to improve transit in the Washington suburbs.

A Purple Line has been recommended for $900 million in federal transit aid.  State officials have said they plan to award a 35-year contract in the spring. Maryland transit officials say they have spent $169.3 million to plan and design a Purple Line since 2006 and another $3.7 million buying land for the project.