The Convoluted Saga of Maryland’s Purple Line Continues | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Convoluted Saga of Maryland’s Purple Line Continues

The WasteWatcher

Maryland Governor Larry Logan’s (R) complex relationship with the state’s Purple Line rail project has become even more controversial.  A June 15, 2022, feature in Washington Monthly details the slow-motion train wreck that is the Purple Line.  As the article notes, the project will not only come in well over budget, but it will also be completed long after its initial deadline.

On January 15, 2015, Hogan announced that the state of Maryland would reduce its contributions to the construction of a new rail line outside of Washington, D.C. Dubbed the “Purple Line,” the project envisioned by Hogan’s predecessor, Governor Martin O’Malley (D), was designed to provide residents of the “Free State” easy access between different stops along the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (WMATA) rail lines.  Now, seven years after it received Hogan’s approval, the project is $1.4 billion over budget and is not set to be completed until 2026, four years after the initial deadline.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has traced the saga of this railroad boondoggle from its earliest days.  On March 10, 2015, CAGW highlighted the project’s misleading nature as the state hoped that “By naming it the Purple Line, proponents allowed the impression that this connector would be integrated into the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area’s Metrorail (Metro) system, whose existing rail lines are known by different colors: Red, Blue, Orange, Green and Silver.”  Despite Maryland’s attempts to correlate the various projects through colorful naming, the Purple Line will not even directly connect to the D.C. Metro.  CAGW’s coverage of the project continued through the remainder of 2015.  A December 18, 2015, WasteWatcher post called the project a “bait and switch” that “would cause a far greater share of the Purple Line’s cost to be borne by the federal government.”

Among the many contributors to the oft-delayed project was a redesign of the project implemented by Hogan upon taking office in 2015.  Hogan’s plan, Washington Monthly reported in 2020, “delayed the start of the light rail line’s construction by almost two years” and allowed the state to free up funds for road construction “that would benefit real estate ventures in which Hogan, a developer, had invested.”  In addition, the program hit more bumps as it faced numerous lawsuits and was forced to settle a dispute with CSX Transportation, a freight rail carrier, adding five months to the project and costing taxpayers an additional $187.7 million.  Finally, continual delays allowed the company working on the project to demand that the state provide more funding for the project, a move that led to another lawsuit, more delays, and a $250 million settlement payment from the state.

Unfortunately for Maryland taxpayers, the project will continue to live on into a third gubernatorial administration after Governor Hogan’s term expires in January 2023.  With four more years left before the project’s new estimated completion date, taxpayers should be wondering if this convoluted tale will ever end or whether it will bring even more stories of waste, fraud, and abuse.  In the meantime, taxpayers at both the state and federal level will continue to pay for this wasteful and inefficient project.  In any event, the ongoing saga of the Purple Line adds to the taxpayer-funded public transportation woes of the Washington, D.C. area.

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