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Maryland Gov. Balks At ‘Unacceptable’ Cost Of Purple Line

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he will not approve a proposed expansion of the D.C. Metro system in Maryland unless cost projections fall “dramatically lower.”

Promising that he would make a final decision about the project sometime in the next month, Hogan told The Washington Post Friday that the projected $153 million per mile cost of the Purple Line is “not acceptable.”

The Purple Line would cover a 16-mile stretch of Southern Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., and would connect to four D.C. Metro stations, Amtrak, bus services, and the Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC) train service.

The total projected cost to build the light-rail line would be about $2.45 billion, though Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn has indicated that it might be possible to complete the project for about 10 percent less than that amount.

Hogan did not specify what an acceptable cost would be, but said, “It would have to be dramatically lower than [the current estimate],” pointing out that, “two miles of that would fund our entire school construction for the entire state.” (RELATED: Maryland Shocker: Republican Larry Hogan Beats the O’Malley Machine)

However, in a post for the Greater Greater Washington blog Monday, David Alpert points out that, “the line would actually cost the state of Maryland relatively little,” because the federal government would provide about $900 million, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties would kick in another $220 million, and several hundred million more would come from private bidders.

Alpert implies that the state’s share of the costs—Hogan’s proposed FY 2016 operating budget calls for a little more than $300 million—would be significantly offset by the economic growth a number of studies have predicted would arise from the Purple Line’s construction.

According to an op-ed for Economics21 by Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, though, the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project shows that many of the benefits predicted by supporters may be overstated. (RELATED: High Cost, Safety Concerns Threaten DC Streetcar Project)

O’Toole points out that not only would the Purple Line average less than 15.5 miles per hour, it would also slightly reduce the average speed of automotive traffic in the vicinity because of the need to cross existing roadways and intersections.

Moreover, he observes, the line would not even reduce emissions, because the EIS projects that Purple Line operations would require the equivalent of 300,000 barrels of oil per year more would otherwise be used by all the cars that it would take off the road.

Mont­gomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, both Democrats who support building the Purple Line, are scheduled to meet with Hogan to reiterate their case later this week. If they fail to convince him otherwise, Hogan may cut funding for the project in as little as two weeks, Democratic state Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr. told The Post.

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