A light rail project akin to the Washington area’s Purple Line could one day be developed in Baltimore if it was made “attractive” to the private sector, Gov. Larry Hogan told a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday.
Hogan, in testimony livestreamed at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, used the Purple Line — an east-west line connecting Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County — as an example of the sort of public-private partnership he likes.
“You could do the same thing in Baltimore,” Hogan said. “The previous plan was just one line that didn’t really provide any type of a system. But you’d have to make it attractive to the private sector.”
Hogan’s mention of a “previous plan” appeared to refer to the $2.9 billion Red Line across Baltimore that he canceled in 2015. While Democrats said the light rail line would have spurred economic development, the Republican governor called it a boondoggle and balked at its proposed $1 billion construction of a tunnel under downtown Baltimore, Harbor East and Fells Point.
Hogan spokesperson Mike Ricci did not immediately reply Wednesday to questions from The Baltimore Sun about the governor’s testimony and whether the Hogan administration would favor a transit partnership for Baltimore.
The governor’s comments came in response to questions by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Baltimorean who serves on the committee.
Cardin noted there has been ample government transportation spending outside of Baltimore, including on the Purple Line and on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
“There’s no question we have an aggressive program for the Washington area dealing with both transit and roads. I find Baltimore has challenges that have not yet been met,” the Democratic senator said.
Hogan was asked by Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, about the reasons for the Red Line cancellation.
Merkley said the project had a national reputation as a “line to connect low-income neighborhoods with few jobs” to job opportunities.
Maryland Policy & Politics
“But that is a project you chose to cancel and put the funds instead in predominantly white communities,” the senator, who also appeared via livestream, told Hogan.
“I would totally disagree with your assertion for a number of reasons, but we don’t have time to debate that here this morning,” the governor replied.
He said the state Department of Transportation recommended against the Red Line, “but we did move forward on the Purple Line, which goes through Prince George’s County.” He said the Purple Line will make 16 stops in minority communities and tie into the Washington Metro system.
Construction on the Purple Line halted last year during a financial dispute with the construction contractor, which quit. The state agreed to a settlement payment and is seeking a new design-build contractor.
The topic of Wednesday’s Senate hearing was: “Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation.”
“When we look at our urban centers, we have desperate equity needs,” Cardin said. He said his goal is to “make it more attractive for transportation to assist economic growth in cities like Baltimore.”
Hogan, who focused on infrastructure needs as the National Governors Association chair last year, told the panel that Maryland was moving forward on transportation projects “in every single jurisdiction all across our state” and investing more in roads and transit than previous administrations.