Speculation abounds about how Larry Hogan’s election as governor will affect the proposed light-rail Purple Line. Hogan has avoided publicly stating his views on the $2.45 billion project by saying he plans to address it after he takes office in January.
However, the Republican governor-elect offered revealing comments to Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney in an interview published Sunday.
In the interview, Hogan says his “priority is building roads” and that he plans to focus on rural areas of the state such as Western Maryland, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore.
He said in the interview he was reluctant to spend money on new transit projects like the Purple Line, saying, “The priorities are out of whack. Less than 10 percent of the people use mass transit. Most people in the state want the roads to be fixed.”
In a follow-up story published Monday night, the Post’s Montgomery County government reporter Bill Turque wrote that Purple Line supporters “cringed when they read Hogan’s remarks.” Supporters worry that Hogan’s lack of support for the project could risk an expected $900 million in federal funding to help build the light-rail line, while developers and business groups fear delaying or killing the project may hurt development and economic growth in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
The Chevy Chase Land Co., in particular, is a major supporter of the project and has plans to develop properties along the transit line’s proposed route in Chevy Chase Lake. The developer organized a group of developers and businesses to draft a letter to Hogan warning about the negative consequences of delaying or not building the line, according to the Post.
If built, the Purple Line would extend from Bethesda to New Carrolton in Prince George’s County, forming an east-west rail line that could connect employment centers including Bethesda and Silver Spring with residential communities and the University of Maryland in College Park.
In a speech to Montgomery County government officials and business leaders Friday in North Bethesda, Hogan did not mention the Purple Line. But in a press interview prior to the speech, Hogan said, “The [Purple Line] came up, and we basically said we’re in the initial stages of budget review—so that we don’t have any real decisions or things that we can talk about.” Regarding his position on the project, Hogan said, “We have to take a look at whether we can afford it, and that’s still the case.”
Officials estimate the state may have to contribute $360 million to $760 million to the project.