Purple Line Causes Political Fallout
Gov. Martin O'Malley proposes $48 million to build Purple Line, but the state is too broke, Ehrlich spokesman says.
College Park residents have seen it before: The closer an election looms, the more grand the promises. Some are lofty, like the possible legalization of slots four years ago, while others are more subtle, like the stealthy decline of gas prices near polling time.
However, with less than two months until the main event showdown between Gov. Martin O'Malley and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the promise of $48 million to begin work on the oft-delayed Purple Line might be the biggest carrot of all.
Just days after the primary, O'Malley (D) proposed $90 million to create the 16-mile Purple Line and a 14.5-mile Red Line between Woodlawn and Bayview in Baltimore. The Purple Line's proposed route would connect New Carrollton to Bethesda, with a stop in College Park and at three locations through the University of Maryland. O'Malley's proposal includes $48.5 million toward the Purple Line, and $41.5 million toward the Red Line, according to information from the Maryland Department of Transportation.
But while College Park residents might praise the allocation of Purple Line funds, members of Ehrlich's camp have accused O'Malley of promising the light rail projects when the state is too broke to build the lines.
"The money to do it doesn't exist," said Andy Barth, an Ehrlich spokesman. "Bob Ehrlich believes in telling people the truth, and the truth is we don't have the money."
If re-elected to his former post, Ehrlich would instead put money toward a so-called Bus Rapid Transit system, between Bethesda and New Carrollton, which would instead add more lanes to major highways and the buses would resemble light-rail trains.
Those trains, according to Ehrlich's office, would also be faster than current buses, and the total cost would be one-third of the $90 million proposed for the two light-rail projects. The BRT, also used in Europe and Australia, has been praised by local politicians and considered a cost-effective alternative to the light-rail projects.
O'Malley, Barth claimed, would pay for the projects through "a big tax increase or borrowing, which would increase the debt."
Shaun Adamec, an O'Malley spokesman, said the governor plans to use a federal program that matches state funding. And while the Ehrlich camp has criticized the price tag associated with the light-rail projects, the former governor merely wants to build more roads, Adamec said.
"This has been a long time coming," he said. "If the former governor is afraid to build the Purple Line, he should say so, and not hide behind the budget."