March 19, 2011
Washington Examiner
Rural lawmaker tries to push Purple Line cost onto counties
By Hayley Peterson


Maryland’s leading Republican senator is urging lawmakers to saddle Maryland’s Washington suburbs with the billion-dollar cost of the region’s planned Purple Line rail, while letting rural counties off the hook.

“[This bill] comes out of the frustration of representing a rural area and watching highway user revenues draw down to the point where we can’t repair our roads,” said Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin, of the Eastern Shore. “And yet we’re watching news conferences where the governor says we’re moving forward with the Red Line and Purple Line.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley has cut state funding for local roads and bridges — called highway user revenues — by more than 95 percent in the last three years, and his fiscal 2012 budget includes additional cuts.

The planned 16-mile Purple Line, a light rail connecting New Carrollton to Bethesda, would cost the state roughly $1.6 billion. A $1.8 billion light rail — the “Red Line” — is planned for Baltimore.

Pipkin’s legislation would create an independent taxing authority to collect revenues for the rails from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, as well as Baltimore City.

“If they want it, let them pay for it,” Pipkin told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which is considering his bill.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Silver Spring, suggested that the state bill the Purple Line to Metro, which will run the new so-called “Silver Line” — a $6.5 billion extension of the Metro in Northern Virginia.

Otherwise, Madaleno said, “We will be on the hook for all of the Purple Line while we’re subsidizing the Silver Line.”

The state contributes roughly $50 million annually to Metro, which funds, maintains and operates the Washington Metro system.

The Purple Line is not considered an extension of the Metro, however, even though some of the planned rail stations would be accessible from existing Metro stations.

The state is planning to use roughly $32 million in fiscal 2012 transportation dollars slated for local roads to help fund the planning stages of the light rail systems in fiscal 2012.

The state has not secured funding beyond fiscal 2015 for the projects, and O’Malley is counting on the federal government to fund more than 50 percent of the transit lines’ total cost.

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com