How eager are proponents of Maryland’s proposed Purple Line light rail system to woo the state’s skeptical governor?
How about pitching a site visit with a supersized “engraved invitation?”
Elected last fall in the usually reliably Democratic state, Republican governor Larry Hogan has repeatedly criticized the $2.4 billion price tag for the long-talked about 16-mile transit line that would stretch across Washington, D.C.’s congested northern suburbs.
Although more than $1.1 billion has already been committed to the project from the Federal Transportation Administration and local governments, Hogan wants to sufficient savings that will make the state’s share more financially palatable. A decision, promised in May, has been pushed back to June.
Purple Line backers might have been content to play the waiting game, had it not been for Hogan’s visit to a 26-mile Japanese maglev test system during a recent trade mission to Asia. One four-lap spin on the 314-mph bullet train was apparently enough to convince Hogan that the state should pursue a $28 million federal grant to study the technology’s viability for the busy Baltimore-Washington corridor.
Hogan’s enthusiasm had to be puzzling to the Purple Line’s advocates. Even a positive report on maglev would still mean a hefty multi-billion investment and who-knows-how-many years of planning, engineering, and construction before the first passenger boarded for the anticipated 15-minute trip between the two cities.
Why go that route, proponents asked, when there’s a project aimed at addressing a more immediate transportation need that’s literally ready to roll? (Well, it will be with that last $1.3 billion and a few years of construction.) Certainly, they reasoned, Gov. Hogan would see those same benefits for himself if had only accepted their repeated invitations to visit the Purple Line route.
“What invitations,” asked the governor’s spokesperson.
Rather than let the matter devolve into a political game of “we said-he said,” the Purple Line’s advocates—groups with names such as the Prince George’s County Advocates for Community-based Transit and the Action Committee for Transit —were determined to make sure the next invitation would not be missed, either by Gov. Hogan or the public.
That led to Thursday’s presentation at the State House in Annapolis of a poster-sized, professionally inked invitation, asking the governor to come on out and give the Purple Line the same first-hand scrutiny he gave the maglev in Japan. Perhaps, they hoped, he’ll be similarly wowed and sign off on providing those much-needed millions.
While the presentation was good for some photo ops, the governor’s staff apparently wasn’t. They insisted that any such invitations need to be transmitted via email. (This is the 21st Century after all.)
Whether the pro-Purple Line folks got Gov. Hogan’s attention remains to be seen. Although it’s been reported that a cost-effective proejct was endorsed by Maryland’s Transportation Secretary, who was also on the maglev test ride in Japan, there have been few other hints as to what the governor will decide, and what might tip the decision one way or the other.
Perhaps the advocates should’ve augmented their poster-size invitation with some candy, maybe some beer too. That still might not be enough sway the governor, but there’d be no concerns about them being caught in a spam filter either.