Purple Line advocates try to put a happy face on Hogan’s victory

A number of Purple Line advocates are doing their best to put a positive spin on Republican Larry Hogan’s upset gubernatorial victory, despite past statements from the Anne Arundel County businessman that suggest he’s no fan of the light rail project.

“While much of Maryland’s political watchers may still be reeling over Republican Larry Hogan’s historic upset last night of Democrat Anthony Brown, those grappling for new pieces of conventional wisdom may find themselves surprised on at least one key issue,” read a Wednesday morning press release from the pro-Purple Line Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Despite what many said during the heat of the campaign, long-planned new transit projects like the Purple Line or Baltimore’s Red Line are not dead in the water because of Hogan’s victory. Nor should they be when one looks at the merits of each project as well as Hogan’s key campaign focus — the economy.”

The press release goes on to say that “Hogan is more open-minded about the Purple and Red lines than opponents gave him credit for.”

Ben Ross, a Bethesda resident and one of the Purple Line’s most ardent supporters, tweeted that no matter Tuesday night’s outcome, the Purple Line is “in better position than Nov 6, 2002. Which was a much better position than Nov 8, 1994. Been there, done that, can do again.”

The Action Committee for Transit, a local group of Purple Line supporters, provided a slightly different tone during the election with a short guide to the Maryland governor’s race. It highlighted Hogan’s September vow to block the Purple Line and his focus on using transportation dollars on highways and roads — not transit.

David Lublin, a politics blogger and former Town of Chevy Chase Councilmember who has opposed the project, wrote on Wednesday that the Purple Line and Red Line were among the election’s biggest losers:

“Governor-Elect Hogan has said he will not proceed with these projects. Why on earth should he throw billions at light-rail for areas that will never vote for him? He’d rather spend the money on roads,” Lublin wrote.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth press release said that might not be the case, citing a Hogan radio interview in October in which he said he was “not really opposed to either project,” and that both the Purple Line and Red Line are “worth considering.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Hogan deflected questions about the fate of the Purple Line.
“No one would deny that Hogan is more skeptical about the project than Brown and has expressed that skepticism forcefully at times,” read the release. “But to declare the project terminated before the day-after-the-election is even over is, to say the least, wildly premature. It is important to remember that there is a big difference between campaigning and governing.”

The roughly $2.4 billion project would run 16 miles from Bethesda to New Carrollton and through Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, College Park and other locations in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The Maryland Transit Administration has already put out at a request to find a private concessionaire to help design, build, operate and finance the system — which also already has some federal funding budgeted.

MTA officials are pushing toward a late 2015 groundbreaking for the project and have made offers on properties the state will need to take over to accommodate construction and operation of the light rail.

As many Purple Line supporters continue to push the economic development effects it could have — especially on eastern Montgomery County and Prince George’s — the Coalition for Smarter Growth appealed to Hogan’s stated focus on improving the state’s economy.

“Anyone who’s hoping to make a name for himself or herself on economic issues will take a clear-headed look at these long planned-for transit projects,” the press release said. “The fact is that transit is good for economic development, period. In this day and age, economic development happens around transit and smart businesspeople know that.”

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