Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s spokesman said Monday that Gov. Larry Hogan is keeping any possible changes to the proposed Purple Line light-rail project “close to his vest.”
Patrick Lacefield said the governor has not told the county how much more money it might have to contribute if he approves a revised version of the project. The governor has also not conducted any negotiations with the county over what features may have to be cut from the project for him to approve it, according to an email from Lacefield.
Questions about what the county has heard from Hogan arose after The Washington Post reported last week that Hogan’s transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, had recommended the governor approve the 16-mile light-rail project, but only if the estimated $2.45 billion cost is trimmed by $300 million and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties pay more.
Whether the counties would have the ability to pay more is a significant question. Lacefield said Montgomery has already committed to paying about $120 million for the Purple Line as well as rebuilding the Capital Crescent Trail along the route. Prince George’s has also committed $120 million and given that county’s current financial state, with County Executive Rushern Baker fighting the County Council over a tax increase this year, it would seem unlikely the county would be willing to contribute more.
In Montgomery, Leggett and the County Council were barely able to pass a budget this year without raising taxes. Already Leggett is warning that property taxes may have to increase next year.
Hogan, who has called the Purple Line too expensive, is expected to make a decision sometime later this month about whether to proceed with the project that would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. Hogan has delayed making the decision twice, once after his inauguration and again in May.
Lacefield said that negotiations may take place with the governor after he makes his decision.
The state would be responsible for spending somewhere between $350 million to $750 million on the Purple Line, depending on how much the private partner that is awarded the contract to build and operate the system is willing to contribute. If Hogan cancels the project, the state would be leaving $900 million in federal construction funds for the project on the table.