Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan discussed the state’s need for the Purple Line and additional federal funding for Metro during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao Wednesday, according to materials from the meeting provided by the governor’s office.
A two-page letter attached to the meeting materials lists seven transportation priorities in the state. The Purple Line and Metro were mentioned after five other priorities in the letter—double-stacking the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore, widening I-81 in western Maryland, improving access to Port Covington in Baltimore, constructing a new I-495 American Legion Bridge and a proposal to build a Maglev train between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chassé said that the majority of the approximately one-hour discussion between Hogan and Chao focused on Metro, but the Purple Line was also discussed. She said state transportation Sec. Pete Rahn was also with Hogan during the meeting.
The letter says the state is prepared to sign a full funding grant agreement for $900 million with the Federal Transit Administration as soon as a federal District Court judge issues a favorable ruling for the Purple Line in the ongoing federal lawsuit that has delayed the light-rail project that would connect Bethesda with New Carrollton in Prince George’s County.
“The project is critical to the National Capital Region’s transit system,” the letter says.
It also notes that Maryland’s payments to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Administration (WMATA) have increased by 61 percent for operating expenses and 48 percent for capital expenses for Metro since fiscal 2010 and says the federal government, “the largest beneficiary” of the Metro system, should provide a proportionate share of costs.
The letter differs from a Washington Post report published online Wednesday evening that noted Hogan’s transportation priorities list did not include Metro or the Purple Line.
The list obtained by the Post, which included information about the other five projects mentioned in the letter and was sent to the National Governors Association, was provided to Del. Bill Frick (D-Bethesda) after Frick filed a public information request to obtain it.
Frick requested the list on March 6 and received it on March 22, according to a copy of the request also obtained by Bethesda Beat Wednesday. Frick said he first tried to obtain the list informally from the governor’s office, then requested it in a letter and then, after he didn’t receive a response, he filed the formal public information request.
“Of course there’s absolutely no reason for those documents to have been developed in secret and hidden from the public and others in state government,” Frick said.
He added that he believes the Purple Line and Metro should be priorities for the state and the Trump administration.
The list that Frick received constituted the last eight pages of the 10-page meeting materials provided by the governor’s office Thursday, but it did not include any information about the Purple Line or Metro.
Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Transportation, told Bethesda Beat Wednesday evening that the five projects on the initial list sent to the National Governors Association were those that are competing for grants or funding for new projects. She said that at the time the list was prepared—before Trump’s proposed budget outline was released on March 16—the state’s transportation department believed the federal funds for the Purple Line weren’t being contested and would be released once the lawsuit is resolved.
Trump’s budget outline, however, complicated things. It notes that only projects with signed full funding grant agreements under the New Starts program would receive funding. In August, state officials were days away from signing the grant agreement for the Purple Line before federal Judge Richard Leon revoked the project’s federal approval in the ongoing lawsuit—citing Metro’s ridership decline and safety issues.
Leon has not issued an updated decision in the case since FTA responded that Metro’s woes wouldn’t significantly impact the Purple Line.