The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hogan’s acting transportation chief has ‘open mind’ about Purple Line

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s choice for transportation chief told a Senate committee Wednesday that he’ll keep an “open mind” about a Purple Line proposed for the Washington suburbs and another light-rail line planned for Baltimore, saying he hopes to make a recommendation to the governor about both projects’ futures in the next 90 days.

“The governor has asked me to keep an open mind and make a recommendation to him,” Pete Rahn told the Senate Budget and Tax Committee, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Rahn, who is acting transportation chief until he is confirmed by the state Senate, said he hopes to make a recommendation during the General Assembly’s 90-day session, which ends in April, the Sun reported.

“It always comes down to costs and how you pay for it,” Rahn said.

A 16-mile Purple Line would run east-west between New Carrollton in Prince George’s County and Bethesda in Montgomery County. Under former governor Martin O’Malley (D), state transit officials touted the proposal’s ability to connect Maryland’s spokes of the Metrorail system, provide faster and more reliable east-west transit than buses, and spark development around train stations.

Critics argued that a Purple Line, which is estimated to cost $2.45 billion to build and $58 million to operate annually, would be too expensive, disrupt neighborhoods along the route and destroy a popular wooded trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring.

While O’Malley’s administration was proceeding full steam ahead on securing $900 million in federal construction aid, Hogan’s election in November made the Purple Line’s future uncertain.

Hogan (R) said during the gubernatorial campaign that the Purple Line’s construction costs, along with an estimated $2.9 billion to build a 14-mile light-rail Red Line in Baltimore, would be too expensive. He also said state money would be better spent on highway projects and introduced Rahn, a former top transportation official in New Mexico and Missouri, as “the best highway builder in the country.”