Advocates for the construction of the Washington suburban Purple Line went to the State House Thursday to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to visit the route of the light rail project just as he did a futuristic magnetic levitation project in Japan.
The advocates contend that they have been sending Hogan invitations to tour the Purple Line route since he took office in January without receiving a yes or no. A Hogan spokesman said last week that he did not know of any invitation.
Hogan said during last year's campaign that he didn't think the state could afford to build either the $2.4 billion Purple Line or the proposed $2.9 billion Baltimore Red Line light rail project. Since his election, however, he has left the door open to approving the projects if Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn can find enough savings to make the projects affordable.
The advocates on Thursday brought Hogan what they billed as an engraved invitation, which consisted of four people holding an over-sized card outside the State House. The action came as The Washington Post was reporting that Rahn has recommended construction of the Purple Line with cost-saving modifications. but that Hogan has yet to decide. Hogan has said he will make a decision on the Purple Line first before considering the fate of the Red Line.
Nick Brand, president of the Montgomery County-based Action Committee for Transit, said he's confident that if Hogan tours the route and sees the potential benefits in economic development and congestion relief, he would give the Purple Line the green light.
"As he said after riding the maglev, seeing is believing," Brand said. During a tour of Asia, Hogan rode the maglev in Japan last week, which attained a speed of 314 mph. He later expressed enthusiasm for using the technology in the Washington-New York corridor, beginning with a segment between the capital and Baltimore. Unlike the Purple Line, maglev is not a mass transit project but a form of intercity rail.
Brand said that by building the New Carrollton-to-Bethesda line, the state would reduce congestion and turn "auto-oriented shopping malls" into transit-oriented development. An adverse decision, he said, would "put a brake on growth for the state as a whole."
The advocates, including a representative of the Prince George's County Advocates for Community-based Transit, weren't expecting to hand over their poster-sized invitation -- complete with calligraphy -- to the governor. Ben Ross, a board member of the Action Committee for Transit, said they were told they's have to deliver it by email.
Asked whether he expected the stunt to yield results, Ross said he didn't know.
"I am beyond figuring out what's going to happen. I'm just watching and waiting to see what happens," he said.
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor doesn't need a tour.
"It's great these groups finally got around to sending an invitation – five months after inauguration," Mayer said. "Fortunately, having grown up in Prince George's County, Governor Hogan is intimately familiar with this proposed route."
Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the governor, said she did not know whether Rahn had made a recommendation to Hogan. She said a decision is expected this month.
Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, declined to comment and said Rahn would have nothing to say publicly about the Purple Line until a decision is announced.