Democrats praise Hogan as Purple Line begins

Gov. Larry Hogan addresses large crowd for Purple Line groundbreaking Monday. From left, state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Hogan, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Anthony Brown, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. Governor’s Office photo.

By Len Lazarick

It was not a cold day in hell, but a cool morning in August that found Maryland’s usually scornful Democrats heaping praise on Republican Larry Hogan, including a current and a past election opponent of the governor.

The Democratic elected officials even showered praise on a Trump administration cabinet secretary — without anyone mentioning the president’s name.

Prompting the praise was the groundbreaking and federal funding of the Purple Line, Maryland’s largest mass transit project in decades. State, local and federal officials were all patting themselves on the back for the public-private partnership (P3) that will build the light rail connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern both got speaking roles after putting up $330 million in local funding to complete the project.

Baker is running for governor and frequently critical of Hogan’s policies. But on Monday, he got a hug from the governor, whom he praised for supporting the project. There was no mention of Hogan’s cancellation of the Red Line in Baltimore, a much shorter mass transit line and tunnel he called a boondoggle.

Hogan was also praised by U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Anthony Brown, whom Hogan defeated for governor in 2014. Brown had backed the project as lieutenant governor to Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, and shepherded the P3 legislation through the General Assembly.

Hogan reserved special praise for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who signed an agreement for $900 million in federal funding — the same amount that Hogan left on the table when he cancelled the Red Line.

Dozens of purple icing donuts were left untouched after the crowds left the groundbreaking. MarylandReporter.comphoto.

“The Purple Line is a great example of what can be achieved when federal, state, and private partners work together,” said Secretary Chao, who met with Hogan in her first days in the post.

The Purple Line will run east to west with 21 stations connecting to Metrorail’s Orange, Green, and Red lines; the MARC Brunswick, Camden, and Penn lines; and Amtrak at New Carrollton.

The Purple Line has also stirred bipartisan opposition from its Democratic neighbors in Chevy Chase objecting to its path through the Capital Crescent Trail. The line was also opposed by the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a free-market think tank who had long questioned its ridership numbers and its cost to build and operate the light rail, points also made by some Montgomery County Democrats.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said the Hogan administration was able to cut $550 million from the line’s construction costs by scaling back some of the stations of the line and other measures.