Thursday, September 23, 2010

Peter Franchot on the Purple Line: A History

Transit advocates must be dismayed at Comptroller Peter Franchot’s comments casting doubt on the viability of the Purple Line, especially since many considered him a project supporter. But is that perception really true? Consider his statements on the project.

October 5, 2002
Franchot, who was then a District 20 Delegate, is asked this question by the Gazette in its voter guide: “Do you support the construction of the Inner Purple Line? If no, can you suggest alternatives?” Franchot answers, “Yes.”

March 7, 2003
New Governor Bob Ehrlich proposes building the Purple Line as a bus rapid transit route. Franchot calls it “an excellent idea.”

September 3, 2003
Franchot criticizes a proposal by Delegate John Hurson (D-18) to build the Purple Line as a busway on Jones Bridge Road. Franchot accuses Hurson of getting the Ehrlich administration to adopt his position on the Purple Line in return for Hurson flipping his position on slots to match Ehrlich’s stance.

Del. Peter V.R. Franchot (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park has criticized Hurson's stands on the two issues, and the appearance of a connection between them.

"This is a double whammy," Franchot said, "because the Purple Line is a high priority to relieve congestion and help the environment, and slots should be a low priority because it is a hidden tax on the poor, breeds addiction and wreaks havoc on small business. Del. Hurson has managed to combine the two issues."
September 26, 2003
Franchot goes after the Columbia Country Club for opposing light rail on the Purple Line.

Several lawmakers, including Del. Peter V.R. Franchot (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, blamed the club's political influence with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for derailing the Purple Line earlier this year. The Georgetown Branch Trail bisects the country club, and Franchot said club members did not want a light-rail line coming through the golf course.

"What are we sacrificing the public interest for?" Franchot asked. "A number of gentlemen who, with green pants and pink shirts, want to hit a little white ball on Sunday afternoon?"
March 3, 2006
Franchot is asked in a Progressive Maryland questionnaire which transit projects he favors funding. He answers:

As chairman of the Transportation and Environment Subcommittee of Appropriations in the House of Delegates, I have fought hard for transit projects that will ease our abilities to get around as well as reduce our dependencies on cars. I will continue to fight to free up funding to projects like the Inner Purple Line and Inner Purple line in the DC metropolitan area as well as the Red line in Baltimore.
August 15, 2006
Franchot, then running for Comptroller, shows up at a rally for the Purple Line in Langley Park. Franchot proclaims, “This is the renaissance of the Purple Line.”

October 17, 2007
Franchot appears at the kickoff event for Purple Line NOW and says:

“I think we need to roll up our sleeves and say the delay is over. ... We need to get this project done now.”
September 22, 2010
Franchot attacks the Purple Line’s costs, specifically targeting two engineering contracts.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot blasted the planned Purple Line on Wednesday, questioning its cost and its ability to win federal funding.

His criticism aligns the Montgomery County Democrat with former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich against Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's billion-dollar pet transportation project.

Franchot criticized the costs associated with the 16-mile light rail line that would connect New Carrollton and Bethesda and an expansion of Baltimore's subway system -- projects that aren't due for construction until 2016. He targeted planned contracts with two Baltimore engineering consultants estimated to cost $160 million over eight years.

"It just strikes me that an eight-year, $160 million commitment is an awful lot of money for an awful long time for, frankly, projects that are still -- speculative is probably too harsh a word, but the question of whether they are going to get funded is still up in the air," Franchot said during a Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday.
So Peter Franchot favored the Inner Purple Line project, an early term used to describe the Bethesda-Silver Spring route. But then he praised Governor Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit alternative. And then he slammed Delegate John Hurson’s bus rapid transit alternative. He later went on the record multiple times in favor of rail on the Bethesda-Silver Spring route, but criticized the relevant engineering contracts – before voting in favor of them.

So has Franchot changed his position on the Purple Line? We can’t say, because looking at his record, we’re not sure what it is.

Franchot for MDOT Secretary, anyone?