A powerful voice on Maryland’s business climate has weighed in with Gov. Larry Hogan in favor of the Purple Line.
Norman Augustine, the retired CEO of Bethesda aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin, sent a letter to Hogan last week asking the governor to move forward with the 16-mile, $2.4 billion light rail project from Bethesda to New Carrollton.
State transportation officials and private contractors are looking for ways to make the project cheaper. Hogan is expected to make a decision on whether to proceed with the project in mid-May.
“Given the considerable effort that has been undertaken to define a route that is as least disruptive to landowners as possible, I would encourage your support of this undertaking,” Augustine wrote.
Augustine is the chair of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, put together by State House leaders. The group, commonly referred to as the Augustine Commission, came out with an interim report in February that included 10 findings and 32 recommendations.
A recommendation on the Purple Line was not among them. Hogan praised the group’s work and the bipartisan effort Annapolis lawmakers had started to address some of its ideas.
It’s the latest pro-Purple Line push from the business community aimed at Hogan, the first-year Republican governor who campaigned on lower tax rates and creating a more friendly environment for business.
Hogan questioned the Purple Line project’s cost and public transit projects in general during the gubernatorial campaign.
In December, a group of major area developers created the Economic Partners of the Purple Line to convince Hogan to go through with the project, which would include $900 million of federal funding. Chamber of commerce leaders from Montgomery and Prince George’s County soon followed with their own plea.
In his letter, Augustine cited an American Public Transportation Association study that was also used as an argument by the group of developers and business leaders.
“It seems clear that among the more serious inhibitors to the growth of business in Maryland is the inadequacy of our transportation system,” Augustine wrote. “In fact, or State now ranks last (worst) among states in average commute time, and that loss of productivity is largely concentrated in the Baltimore/Washington area.
“The Purple Line would be a significant step forward in relieving that impediment to business, particularly with regard to recruiting,” Augustine wrote.
At a joint meeting of Prince George’s and Montgomery County Council members on Monday, Maryland Transit Administration officials gave a briefing on the latest Purple Line planning.
Many Council members came away from the meeting optimistic that Hogan will decide to let the project move forward, though perhaps with some cost-saving cuts.
Photo via Wikimedia/Paul E. Alers