Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that Maryland will move forward with construction of the Purple Line light rail to connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — so long as state financial support is reduced and local governments pick up more of the cost.
Under Mr. Hogan’s plan, state financing would be significantly reduced, with Maryland committing $168 million instead of the $700 million previously allotted. The 16-mile-long project instead would rely more on federal funds, cost reductions and stepped-up commitments by local governments.
The original Purple Line project was expected to cost $2.4 billion, but the Republican governor said the new plan, which includes reducing the frequency of trains, would reduce the total cost by about $200 million.
“We are not opposed to mass transit but we do oppose wasteful and irresponsible spending on poorly conceived projects that waste taxpayers money,” said Mr. Hogan, whose criticism of the project on the campaign trail last year led many to question whether it would see the light of day under his administration.
During Thursday’s announcement, Mr. Hogan also addressed statewide transportation concerns by committing $1.97 billion for road, bridge and highway improvement projects.
“Building, maintaining and fixing Maryland’s roads and bridges is our top transportation priority,” he said.
At his announcement in Annapolis, Mr. Hogan did not provide an amount that his administration is looking for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to pony up as part of the Purple Line project.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said officials would assess the county’s ability to pay more.
“Prince George’s County has already committed an extraordinary amount for local governments to contribute toward a state project,” Mr. Baker said. “I will thoroughly review this proposal along with my budget, finance, economic development and transportation advisers to assess what this means for Prince George’s County.”
The Purple Line would connect Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County via an east-west light rail line — creating 21 stations and a way for riders to access both arms of Metro’s Red Line without traveling all the way into the District.
Both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are already on the hook for $240 million for funding the project, which officials have estimated will bring more than 6,000 construction jobs to the region.
Montgomery County officials praised the decision to keep the Purple Line afloat, professing a commitment to work with the state on seeing the project through.
“We will put some more creative thought and energy into this challenge, and we will again find solutions,” said Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal, noting that the requirement to commit more local dollars will create a substantial challenge. “When a project is this important to future generations of your residents, that is what must be done.”
The plan also relies on federal funding, specifically $900 million in federal construction funds that the Maryland Transit Administration has recommended.
Federal lawmakers already have approved $100 million of that funding, and on Thursday Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced that the Senate Committee on Appropriations had approved a spending bill that includes an additional $100 million for the Purple Line. The spending bill also appropriated $100 million for Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project — which Mr. Hogan announced Thursday would be tabled.
It was unclear whether federal lawmakers might try to reappropriate the $100 million for the Red Line to the Purple Line or to projects outside the state.
Saying that Red Line project did not make financial sense and would do little to address transportation issues in Baltimore, Mr. Hogan announced that rather than going forward with the $2.9 billion project, the state instead would allocate $1.97 billion for road, bridge and highway improvement projects.
He said the state would spend $1.35 billion on new projects in addition to $625 million already allotted for projects previously planned or underway.
New projects would include:
⦁ Congestion reduction along Interstate 270.
⦁ Upgrading the partial interchange at Interstate 95 and the Beltway in the hopes of supporting a proposal to move the FBI headquarters to Greenbelt.
⦁ Widening Maryland 404 on between Route 50 and Denton from two lanes to four lanes.
⦁ Reconfiguring traffic on Route 50 in Anne Arundel County over the Severn River Bridge to add an extra lane to reduce congestion.
⦁ Reconstructing Route 1 in College Park as a four-lane divided highway with pedestrian safety improvements.
Thursday’s news conference was Mr. Hogan’s first since he announced this week that he is undergoing treatment for cancer.