Hogan’s budget plan includes money for Purple Line

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed to continue funding the Purple Line, but his administration has warned that the $2.5 billion project is under review.

When he campaigned for governor, Hogan (R) made clear his concerns with the project’s price tag and emphasized his preference for road projects.

Yet Hogan’s proposed capital budget, which was released on Friday, keeps a planned $312.7 million in the Consolidated Transportation Program — the state’s six-year capital plan for transportation — for the project in fiscal 2016, according to the final 2015 program.

The CTP also assumes about $923 million will come from the federal government over the course of the project.

However, Budget Secretary David R. Brinkley said both the Purple Line and the $2.9 billion Red Line proposed in Baltimore are under “review and re-evaluation.”

Montgomery County Council President George L. Leventhal said the governor can reject federal funds for the project.

Maryland Transit officials have said construction on the 16-mile light rail line to connect Bethesda and New Carrollton could begin as early as this fall if it stays on schedule.

As Hogan’s administration studies the project, the deadline to grant a 35-year contract for a public-private partnership on the project approaches. Originally in January, that deadline for bids has been pushed to March 12, Leventhal (D-At Large) of Takoma Park said.

“That’s a fairly near-term go or no-go decision,” he said.

As planned, the rail line is a top priority for Montgomery County.

Del. Shane Robinson (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village, the county’s House delegation chairman, said lawmakers know Hogan is pro-economic development. Lawmakers are working to convince Hogan that the Purple Line is a key driver of economic development in Montgomery County, the economic engine of the state.

Asked if the review of the project was of concern, Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Dist. 39) of Montgomery Village, the county’s Senate delegation chairwoman, said, “Well, yeah. Obviously, he hasn’t made up his mind if he is going to fund it or not.”

Transit advocates were quick to praise the announcement of the funding last week.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, applauded Hogan’s decision to keep the Purple and Red lines in his first budget.

“The Purple Line is a good deal for Maryland, good for jobs, good for the economy and good for commuters,” he said in a news release. “Walking away would waste taxpayer money, discourage future public-private partnerships, and forego [sic] a significant economic development opportunity.”

While the Purple Line remains on uncertain ground, Leventhal said many of the county’s other capital priorities were funded in Hogan’s budget, including $1 million for Strathmore Hall and $2 million for the National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence.

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