We held our collective breath last Thursday afternoon. The earlier leaks to the Associated Press spoke only of new road spending, as did the charts in the room and the first half of the presentation. However, Governor Hogan's purple tie was a signal, and thanks to the hard work of allies like you, our message got through! The Governor explained from the podium what we've been saying all along, "The Purple Line is a long-term investment that will be an important economic driver for Maryland. It will be built in a part of our state that has demonstrated strong support and use of mass transit. The Purple Line will integrate seamlessly with our current transit systems, combining Metro, MARC, and Amtrak. Construction alone will mean 23,000 new jobs for Marylanders over the next six years. And, it will be a long-term asset to our state, attracting businesses and making Maryland a better place to live, work, and retire."
As you may have heard, the announcement also contained some disappointing news as the Governor was quite explicit about his goal of transferring funds from mass transit projects to roads. The cancellation of the Red Line means years of delays until Baltimore builds the new transit it badly needs. He also announced $200 million in cuts to the Purple Line -- some of which would be transferred to the counties, a consideration that apparently applies to none of the announced road projects. Given the Governor's well-established transportation preferences and earlier discussions of even larger cuts, the Purple Line portion of this announcement led to sighs of relief. This has been a hard several months, a heavier lift than the 2014 General Assembly transportation funding package that made notable new infrastructure spending possible.
We want to clarify some misconceptions floating around the news media since Governor Hogan's announcement. The first misconception is that we now have a done deal. Unfortunately, we don't yet have the details on the $200 million in cuts. We know that there will be one train every 7.5 minutes during rush hour, not every six, and this allows one fewer rail yard and fewer cars needed to purchase at the opening. However, the overall number includes a variety of other cuts that were only hinted about by Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn. From what we have heard from MTA, we believe the Secretary wants a viable projects and intends to see it through, but the local governments are right to insist on more details up front.
The second premature assessment is to look at County Executive Baker's statement that Prince George's county cannot go higher than the $120 million they have already promised, along with the $50 million from Montgomery County (in addition to in-kind donations and $165 million of related projects). Some are saying that the project is in serious trouble. We've taken a close look at the project funding in the past and listened carefully for details in the announcement and in the press thereafter. Depending on the specifics of the cuts, the statements from the Governor and the county executives do not preclude a compromise. Governor Hogan wanted to emphasize mass transit cuts, and succeeded in that, but as long as the Governor is acting in good faith, his numbers did not exclude a range of possible compromises. We don't blame county leaders for wanting to negotiate hard - they are being asked to bear a disproportionate burden, but it is vital that they remain committed to making sure this project happens. For the time being, the best way to do that is to find details on the changes to the scope of the project and then work out the financing. We will keep you updated as more information comes available.
Now, our work continues. We know that the Governor took a lot of convincing and that the consistent support by political, civic, business, and labor groups ,as well as individuals leaders, was key in getting our message through. If the counties and all their elected officials had not declared and pushed for the Purple Line as their number one priority, if business leader after business leader had not announced their support, if advocates did not show up in Annapolis in March and then kept showing up, or if the press lacked the information they needed to write good articles to keep the project highly visible, things would have gone very differently. As the need arises, we will reach out to you in coming days to assure county politicians their citizens do support this project and to encourage them to keep the pressure up on the administration to follow through on their commitments. We will be meeting with MTA and county officials to track how negotiations are going and to identify and challenge the changes that reduce the viability of the line or that preclude future reversibility of the cuts.
However, for now, this is a time to celebrate the fact that the Purple Line is back on track, to give comfort to our friends in Baltimore who continue to fight the good fight, and to express our gratitude to all the people who got us this far, past and present. Thank you for supporting the Purple Line -- we could not have done it without people like you and we hope you continue to support us until we all can take our first ride!
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