Thursday, September 23, 2010

Franchot Responds to Examiner Story on Purple Line

Comptroller Peter Franchot has issued the following statement in response to the Examiner story quoting him as expressing skepticism about the Purple Line.

Statement of Comptroller Peter Franchot Regarding Today’s Washington Examiner Story

September 23, 2010

“In the past three and half years I have never felt the need to respond to an article or column written about me, or positions that I have taken on public policy issues. However, today’s Washington Examiner story is such a gross misrepresentation of my longtime position on Maryland’s Purple Line project that I feel compelled to set the record straight.

Over my career in public life, I have been a strong and consistent advocate for creating accessible mass transit options across the state, none more so than the Purple Line. I publicly advocated on behalf of this project as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from the 20th District, which includes several communities that will be directly served by this vital rail line, and successfully fought to protect project funding as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment.

I believe today, as I always have, that the Purple Line will substantially improve transportation mobility in one of the nation’s most congested regions. I believe that the Purple Line will provide reliable and convenient service to communities that are in urgent need of better transit options, and I believe that it will be a catalyst for environmentally sustainable, transit-oriented development that will ultimately enhance our State’s economy and quality of life. It is in that spirit that I restated my longstanding support for the project at yesterday’s Board of Public Works meeting, and expressed appreciation to Governor O’Malley for his support of the project, as well as the proposed Red Line that will serve the Baltimore region, and the Corridor Cities Transitway in the Washington region.

As Comptroller, I take my role as an advocate for the taxpayers very seriously. When items come up for approval before the Board of Public Works, I carefully review them and often ask the presenting agencies questions to ensure that we are managing taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible. At Wednesday’s meeting, I did ask substantive questions about two general engineering consultant contracts with eight-year terms and a total cost of $160 million. Given the magnitude of this investment of taxpayer dollars, particularly at a time when so many other worthy projects around the State have been deferred due to budget constraints, I sought reassurance from Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) officials that these services “are absolutely vital to the goal of getting these projects funded and built” and that the State of Maryland would truly be getting $160 million worth of work from these consultants.

Given the complexity of these contracts and the large number of consulting firms that are included in the contracts, I also sought reassurance that there were proper management controls in place to ensure the work would be completed in accordance with our high standards. I received thoughtful and detailed responses from the MDOT officials at the meeting, and after being satisfied with the answers, I joined Governor O’Malley and Treasurer Kopp in voting for these contracts. At no point in the meeting did I criticize the projects or their projected costs, and at no point did I suggest that they “are a poor use of money.”

In closing, this story grossly misrepresents my longstanding position on a project that I consider very important. More important, this article does a disservice to the Purple Line project, as well as the Red Line and Corridor Cities Transitway projects, by unfairly questioning the unity and resolve of our state’s leaders at a time when the State of Maryland is preparing to compete for federal funding support. In reaffirming my support for the Purple Line, I am also reaffirming my commitment to work with Governor O’Malley, the General Assembly and our congressional delegation to ensure this project is funded and built in a timely manner. I would also invite the Washington Examiner to actually send a reporter to a Board of Public Works meeting in order to ensure accurate and fair coverage.”