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Hogan hedges opposition to Red, Purple lines

Republican gubernatorial candidate said Larry Hogan indicated Wednesday that his opposition to state financing of the construction of Baltimore’s Red Line and another large transit project doesn’t necessarily mean forever.

Hogan continued to insist, as he has since launching his campaign, that the state cannot afford to begin building the $2.6 billion Red Line and $2.4 billion Purple Line In the Washington suburbs at this time.

 “I’m not really opposed to the Red Line or the Purple Line and both of them I think are worth considering and I’m not even opposed to continuing along the planning and engineering phases, but quite frankly, you know, we’ve robbed a billion dollars out of the Transportation Trust Fund,” Hogan said.

“Robbed “ is Hogan’s characterization of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to ask the General Assembly to transfer of money from the fund to balance the budget when the 2008-2009 recession caused a severe revenue shortfall for several years.

Campaigning against Democratic rival Anthony G. Brown, Hogan said on WBAL’s Derek Hunter Show that he believes that state will have to spend its transportation funds primarily on “backed-up road projects” over the next few years.

Adam Dubitsky, a Hogan spokesman, said the candidate’s comments did not represent a change of position. He said Hogan remains a skeptic about building both projects as light rail lines, adding that a rapid bus system using dedicated lines would be less costly and more capable of being rerouted in the future.

However, Brown campaign manager Justin Schall saw Hogan’s milder words about the transit projects as an opportunistic switch.

“Now after months of saying he is against the Purple Line and the Red Line he suddenly changes his mind, Schall said. ““This is a pathetic attempt to mislead voters and it’s too bad Hogan isn’t brave enough to stand up for his own so called ‘positions.”

At times during the primary Hogan expressed opposition to the transit projects without providing much nuance, But Dubitsky said Hogan has never been opposed to light rail in principle, thouigh he has concerns about its cost at a time when he contends that Maryland is in a fiscal crisis.

Hogan has particular concerns about the Red Line because of the low ridership on Baltimore’s existing transit lines, Dubitsky said.

“Larry needs some convincing it’s actually a project that is necessary,” Dubitsky said.

Delaying or switching the mode of transit of either project to bus could add many years to the eventual completion dates because of the complicated and protracted process for gaining approval for federal financing. The state hopes the U.S. Federal Transit Administration will pick up half the construction costs.

 The Red Line, which has been in the planning process for a decade, is a 14-mile east-west line that would run from Woodlawn to Bayview. In February 2013, the federal government approved plans to build it as a light rail line. The 16-mile Purple Line would run from New Carrollton to Bethesda.

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