Governor Hogan’s March 2 announced choice of a consortium of companies to build and manage the Purple Line has generated much media coverage and public comment–and action by citizens and groups questioning the decision and the project.

Kojo Nnambi featured the Purple Line on his popular midday WAMU radio show on March 7. The segment included a Purple Line proponent, but spent the majority of its air time discussing the lawsuit, with co-plaintiff John Fitzgerald brought on the air. Kojo led off and set the mood of the segment with a listener’s email: “There is opposition to the Purple Line all along its proposed route. The State’s and counties’ justifications for the project and claims about its benefits and costs are weak, misleading and even deceptive. Before proceeding with the Purple Line, our state and local governments owe an honest explanation to taxpayers and Maryland residents who want transportation that is based on real needs, not smoke and mirrors.” A podcast of the segment is available HERE.

The State’s next step is to obtain the Maryland Board of Public Works approval of the 36-year contract. The 3-member Board, which is composed of Governor Hogan and the State’s Treasurer and Comptroller, is mandated to protect and enhance the State’s fiscal integrity. The Board will issue a decision on April 6.

What will be the Contract’s 36-year impacts on State, county and Metro finances? Getting answers is difficult. The Contract is extremely complex, and not fully available for public examination. In the Washington Post article “Determining if the Purple Line contract is a good deal isn’t easy”, Senator Rich Madaleno explains his concerns and Warren Deschenaux, executive director of the Maryland General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services, says his Department has no expertise in transportation so “We have to assume they’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

If it quacks like a duck… With a $5.6 billion, price tag, the Purple Line is one of the most costly projects seen in any state. If the system is built, Maryland is committed to paying almost $150 million annually for 36 years. This single project increases Maryland’s long-term financial obligations by close to 40%. State officials claim, though, that this is not “debt.”

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul… The State itself confirms that most Purple Line riders will be diverted from existing public transit systems. As a result, regional and county bus systems will face a cut in revenues of about $36 million per year as they struggle to provide vital services throughout the area.

The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away… Revealed among the documents so far provided on the project was a request from the State for an extra $13.8 million from Montgomery County to cover higher estimated costs for Bethesda Metro Station’s south entrance. The County would also have to come up with $59 million of its (so far) $205 million obligation to the project in the first few years of construction, a faster disbursement than expected.

Once I built a railroad, now it’s done, buddy can you spare a dime… Purple Line fare revenues, even at the questionable levels now forecast, will cover barely 30% of Maryland’s yearly availability payments to the concessionaire. The remainder, about $104 million each year, will have to come from the state Transportation Trust Fund (the source of funding for road and mass transit infrastructure throughout the state). How will Maryland manage the risk of even lower riders than forecast? What better transportation solutions could we have for $104 million a year for 30 years?

Apart from these financial issues are the significant environmental risks and, given the history of big transportation projects in the region, the likelihood of cost overruns. The bottom line is that the Board of Public Works should not approve this contract. So let’s take action!

Take action to protect our state and county’s fiscal integrity.

1. If you are a resident of District 18, please tell Senator Rich Madaleno that you do not support, or have deep concerns about the Purple Line contract. Urge him to ask the tough questions and to work with other officials and with his Budget Committee to get those questions to the Board of Public Works well before the Board’s April 6 decision. Contact Senator Madaleno atrichard.madaleno@senate.state.md.us or (410) 841-3137.

2. If you live outside District 18, contact your state delegates and senators and tell them that you do not support, or have deep concerns about the Purple Line contract. (you can look them up: HERE). Urge them to warn the Maryland Board of Public Works about the serious questions about the Purple Line contract, the high costs to your region and the state. Ask them to urge the Board to say no to the contract.

3. Contact Governor Hogan(he is a member of the Board of Public Works) to urge him to say no to the Purple Line contract. Tell him you are astonished that, after campaigning on the need for fiscal prudence and criticizing his predecessors for high levels of borrowing and taxation, he would now sign a contract which –no matter how creatively it is “structured” and labeled will increase Maryland’s long term financial obligations by 40% — perhaps the largest increase in Maryland history. Call Governor Hogan at 410-974-3901 or email him using the online form HERE