ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) & wtop.com — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says the state will contribute $168 million to the planned Purple Line rail system in the Washington suburbs instead of nearly $700 million.

In an afternoon news conference to discuss transportation infrastructure, the governor says the counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s will have to put up more money for the 16-mile light-rail project. The total cost is estimated at $2.45 billion.

Although Hogan says investing in road projects is his top priority, he supports the Purple Line as a long-term investment in a part of the state that heavily relies on public transit. He says that that the project will bring businesses to the region and add jobs during construction, which also helped convince him to move the project forward.

“I wasn’t a huge proponent of the Purple Line, but I never said I was opposed to it. I just said it was too expensive … And we’re trying to make it less expensive,” Hogan says.

He called it a difficult decision but says he believes it’s the right one.

Local county officials reacted cautiously, but optimistically to the governor’s news.

“Prince George’s County has already committed an extraordinary amount for local governments to contribute toward a state project,” says County Executive Rushern Baker in a statement. “We will work in concert with Montgomery County to analyze whether this new proposal maintains the spirit of the initial plan for the Purple Line and will lead to the outcomes and benefits we have been talking about for years.”

“I’m delighted that the governor has made the decision to move forward,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

But he also says he wants to sit down again with the Hogan administration to review all aspects of the project including cost, design and just how much his county and neighbor Prince George’s would have to pitch in.

Montgomery County Councilman Roger Berliner believes the two counties can bring a little more to the table. He calls the news a positive step forward and he’s confident the state and county can work out the details.

In all, Hogan announced $1.97 billion in transportation projects including 100 million to relieve congestion along Interstate 270 between Rockville and Gaithersburg. He also announced more than $100 million for improvements to the Capital Beltway interchange at the Greenbelt Metro Station to help sweeten the pot and convince federal officials to build the new FBI headquarters there.

Another $30 million will go to rebuild U.S. Route 1 in College Park improving bicycle and pedestrian safety and adding a median.

He also says a light-rail project in the Baltimore area, called the Red Line, will not happen as proposed. He says of that $2.64 billion proposal, “We can do better.” The 14.1-mile, east-west light rail would have connected Woodlawn in Baltimore County with downtown Baltimore.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo and Amanda Iacone contributed to this report from Washington. Kate Ryan reported from Annapolis.

Rep. John Delaney (MD-6) issues the following statement in response to Gov. Hogan’s decision:

“It is critically important that the Purple Line gets built and what I fear is that the Governor has implemented a process to derail the project, and derailed the billions in new investment in economic development and thousands of jobs it could create.

I am disappointed that the Governor did not move forward on the Red Line, which would have been a transformative project for Baltimore. We have seen how profoundly many areas of Baltimore are hurting and how new economic development is needed there.

While I’m encouraged that the Governor indicated some support for the Purple Line, I’m uncertain as to how it can be successfully reformulated with materially less state funds and worry that such an effort may effectively terminate the project. The Governor indicated that he looks at data when he makes these decisions – which I applaud – and I ask him to share his analytics behind how the Purple Line can be built with significantly less state funding.  The stakeholders in this project deserve to see a detailed plan as to how this will be structured from a financial perspective, including effects on federal grants, expected contributions from the counties, and additional on-going costs associated with shifting construction funding to private partners if that is envisioned.”

© 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

See Source Article Here

Tags: