Thursday, June 25, 2015

Decision time for transportation in Maryland. Today?

Governor Hogan, himself battling life changing cancer is scheduled to make major announcements today about Maryland's infrastructure and transportation system that will be life changing in their own way.
Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn (right). Photo: Daily Record

Since Hogan won the election, a big guessing game has been going on what he will do with the two big "New Starts" transportation projects that have been in the works for over ten years and are projected to cost a combined $5.4 billion dollars, the Purple Line connecting Bethesda with Silver Springa nd New Carrollton and the Red Line connecting Security Square Mall and SSA with the Bayview medical center. Both projects are essentially fully designed and ready for construction beginning in 2016 provided the bid packages are released on time (or in the case of the Purple Line, the design-build-operate Public Private Partnership request for proposals already out gets a new submission deadline). Both projects have received the nod to each get $900 in scarce federal dollars. The O'Malley gas tax increase of 2013 is supposed to fund the State portion for both projects.

With over ten years of planning under the belt and over $450 million spent on design and small amounts of testing soils for tunneling etc., it is fair to say that thousands are waiting very intently for decisions to be made if these projects move forward at all, and if, with what modifications. Businesses, communities, consultants and the regional economy at large hang in the balance. To have these projects or not is expected to make a big difference for the Baltimore and the Washington regions, although opinions on what kind of difference vary. The Baltimore based Daily Record reports today what they expect to be decided regarding the Purple Line:
Hogan tasked Rahn with finding ways to reduce the costs of the project. Sources say $300 million in reductions — a combination of changes in design elements to stations, changes in how the project is financed, and increasing the contributions required of Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties — could be part of the mix should the governor decide to move forward.
Federal legislators have urged Hogan to approve the project citing the loss of $900 million in federal aid. (article)

In the last few days there is an additional buzz about the possibility of MARC trains to be extended to Delaware and about prospects for a MagLev super fast train between Baltimore and Washington. It is possible that these discussions are the administration's way of throwing some meat to transit
(Photo: SUN)
supporters, should the decision be to kill the Purple Line cold. Red Line supporters will try to read from the Purple Line decision what it may mean for the fate of the Baltimore transit line. Is having the Purple Line move forward in some form a good sign for the red Line or does it mean that its chances get diminished in light of an administration that has cast doubt on these lines being "affordable".

It is likely that this evening there will be some more clarity about the future of transit in Maryland.

Update: Shortly after noon, the WP reported this:
Gov. Larry Hogan will announce plans to spend nearly $2 billion on roads, highways and bridges throughout the state of Maryland, a state senator who has been informed of the announcement said Thursday.
Of that, that $1.35 billion will be for new projects, Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Harford County, said. About $625 million will be announced for projects that already have been lined up.
“I think it’s definitely needed, especially with regards to the maintenance of our infrastructure,” Jennings said.
A senior Hogan administration official confirmed the details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak ahead of the announcement Thursday afternoon.
If correct this would mean the end of at least one of the rail projects since the additional road funding would have to come from the transportation trust fund and Hogan has eliminated any additional intake.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

SUN article about possible extension of Maryland commuter trains up to Delaware
Washington Post article about possible extension of Maryland commuter trains up to Delaware

Purple Line alignment (from Purple Line website)

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