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August 10, 2010

O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax

UPDATED, with response from Ehrlich campaign

Baltimore Sun transportation writer Michael Dresser reports from Silver Spring:

It was no accident that Gov. Martin O’Malley wore a purple tie to his campaign event in Silver Spring this morning.

The governor met with about two dozen small business owners and other voters at the Tastee Diner in this Montgomery County community to discuss his approach to transit issues -- and to underscore his support for a light rail project known as the Purple Line and the opposition of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to it.

While O’Malley launched no new verbal missiles at his prospective Republican opponent, he used the Purple Line issue to underscore a stark policy difference between the two.

Ehrlich has said he would scrap the O’Malley administration’s plan to build a light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, saying the state can’t afford it. O’Malley cast that position an an example of a retrun to the past -- a central theme of his re-election campaign.

“For whatever reason, Bob Ehrlich has decided to turn back the clock and take Maryland back,” O'Malley said. “I think it shows a contrast between the way the two of us look at the future.”

But Andy Barth, a spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign, said O'Malley's promises to build the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line light rail systems would not move the state forward.

"It would be nice to build every transportation project that comes up, but Bob Ehrlich wants to be honest with the voters and the money to do those projects doesn't exist," Barth said. He said Ehrlich would consider a rapid bus system, which he said would be much cheaper to build, along the proposed route of the Purple Line.

The governor’s meeting with the business group -- largely made up of pro-O’Malley Purple Line supporters -- was relatvely light on campaign rhetoric and heavy on the detail-oriented policy discussions O’Malley clearly revels in.

The topics reflected the concerns of a group that depends heavily on transit to bring employees to the workplace and customers to their places of business. In addition to the Purple Line, topics included the performance of Washington’s Metro system and the perception that Montgomery County receives less than its fair share of transportation funding.

O’Malley avoided taking the bait on that point.

“When we’re in Baltimore, the allegation is the Washington suburbs get more money for transportation,” he said. The governor said he hopes to see Metro adopt “transparent” performance measures and to make them public through a system similar to his administration’s web-based StateStat program.

On Metro, O’Malley promised to push for more effective leadership of an organization that has been criticized for poor service and a lax approach to safety.

“What Metro doesn’t have is stable leadership at the top right now,” he said.

The governor boasted that his administration has made a real difference in transportation funding -- increasing the share of the pie for transit by 9 percentage points over the Ehrlich years for what O’Malley called “a more balanced transportation system.”

But Barth said the state needs a better balance between new projects and upkeep of current infrastructure.

"We strongly think we should spend money to fix what's broken -- the things that are wrong with Metro and MARC," he said.

O’Malley punted on the politically volatile issue of the gasoline tax, which some transportation infrastructure advocates believe will have to be raised to finance any major new projects. Declining to commit one way or another, he expressed the hope that a recovering economy will lead to a surge in transportation revenue.

Barth said Ehrlich has no plans to raise the gas tax but did not speciifically rule it out.

Silver Spring is considerd to be friendly territory for O’Malley in many ways. It is a transit hub, a role that would only increase if the Purple Line is built. And its downtown has undergone a remarkable renaisance in the last decade -- becoming something of a showpiece for the “smart growth” policies O’Malley has embraced.

Montgomery County is expected to be one of the keys to this year’s expected OMalley-Ehrlich rematch. The Democrat trounced Ehrlich in Maryland’s most populous county in 2006, garnering 63 percent of the vote, and the Republican is hoping to at least hold down O'Malley’s winning percentage there this year.

O’Malley’s pitch resonated with some of the small business owners -- a group Ehrlich has targeted with pledges to cut regulation and hold down taxes. But for Dan Meijer, owner of Danco Electronic Service Specialists in Silver Spring and a Purple Line supporter, the transit issue trumped those appeals.

“It’s just wonderful that we have a Governor O’Malley in office,” Meijer said. “His vision is long-term rather than short-term political gain.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:48 PM | | Comments (22)


How will the Purple Line be paid for

He "wire" a purple tie?

How about double checking your work? I counted at least 7 typos in this article. The writer should be embarrassed. I know I'm embarrassed for him. How stupid the citizens of Maryland look when our reporters can't even spell.

ever heard of spell check?? "OMalley" "O'Maley" "laces of business" "expresed"

Ehrlich's transportation policy is to underfund mass transit to pay for the Intercounty Connector which has bankrupted the transportation fund, will be too expensive to drive on unless supported by other toll roads, and benefits the few at the expense of the many. O'Malley has it right.

This Govenor wants to spend all of our hard earn money on small projects. why not confront the big problems like innocent people being slaughtered in Baltimore, illeagals obtaining drivers liscense and other hot topics. He avpoids them like the baby he is. he only has his personal agenda's and not the people of Maryland. Put the death penalty back on the table and use it.

Why waste state money on a purple line? O'Malley needs to take a trip out to Baltimore County and see how many people ride the light rail, there's never anyone on it unless there's a Ravens game or a big event going on downtown. The people that ride the light rail on a regular basis are the criminals that ride it out to the county to shoplift and then steal a car to ride back to the city. Remember the case a couple years ago when a teenage couple was kidnapped from a Timonium Lightrail station and taken back to Cherry Hill and the girl was raped? I don't see why O'Malley likes to spend so much money that doesn't exist. I'm City resident that is strongly opposed to the Redline project that O'Malley supports so the second that project goes through I'm out of here since that line will bring all kinds of crime and destroy Canton and Fells Point.

Hey Tom, do us all a favor and just leave now. Nobody wants you here. I'd love to know what sources you have that tell prove that the Light Rail only attracts or two isolated incidents doesn't mean the light rail is dangerous. If this were the case than the New York City subway should have been closed down about 100 years ago. If you can't handle urban living or are afraid of it, then get out and move to your perfect suburban paradise that you wish you had.

Hey Tim, do us all a favor and just leave now. Nobody wants you here. I'd love to know what sources you have that tell prove that the Light Rail only attracts or two isolated incidents doesn't mean the light rail is dangerous. If this were the case than the New York City subway should have been closed down about 100 years ago. If you can't handle urban living or are afraid of it, then get out and move to your perfect suburban paradise that you wish you had.

Wait, so Metro that is backlogged with capital spending items (most noted by the major failure of the switch on the Red Line a year ago) and for their own employees, is somehow going to have a new line? Brilliant. Who is going to police the line? If O'Malley paid a dime of attention to the DC area he would have known about the 70-teen fight on Metro including where they beat the crap out of some kid who was just reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

The state doesn't just have $1 billion sitting around to build a new subway! Seriously, did O'Malley ride on Georgia Avenue at all? If so, he would realize the state is letting their road deteriorate into 3rd World status.

O'Malley did this in 2006... he promised everything and did nothing. Remember the purple line he supported then? Or how about when he supported the third river crossing up in North Potomac/West Gaithersburg? When will people stop being stupid enough to believe the guy when he makes promises that the state can't cash!

Has anyone noticed how poor the public transit system is in Baltimore? Rapid-Buses are not the solution. We need more light-rail and an expansion of the current subway system. It is funny Ehrlich says we don't have the money since he drastically increased spending as governor. Ehrlich has not been honesty with the "Fees" he increased as governor, at least O'Malley talks about the sales tax increases openly. Is O'Malley perfect? Not even close... but Bob Ehrlich would not invest to make Baltimore and Maryland better.

Here is a crazy idea. Get the people that want to use it to pay for it.

O'Malley wants to move MD forward, forward to bankruptcy. It would be nice to have both lines, but how in the world can MD afford both of them right now when drastic cuts are needed to balance the budget?

Maybe some of you don't realize that the ridership of the light rail line in Baltimore County is not at all similar to the potential ridership of the proposed Purple Line?

Or maybe Boobie should have not started construction of the Inter-County Connector until it was fully paid for? (But that's OK for some of you, because it's not public transportation, right?)

Oh, and Boobie's bus solution? Has he ever looked at the ongoing operating costs of bus vs. rail? And has he looked at the reports on how a bus is MUCH slower than light rail?

Crime? Georgetown in DC didn't want a stop when Metro was built - they were convinced it would 'attract crime'. Now they realize that it doesn't, so now they want Metro to build a subway stop in Georgetown (but don't want to pay for it).

The Purple Line will be a great benefit to me and others like me. I live in New Carrollton, work at the University of Maryland, and already use WMATA's public transportation system on a regular basis. As for finances, I think O'Malley has shown a much better track record than Erlich ever did of keeping spending under control. In particular, the Purple Line will receive cost-sharing from federal programs, so it will be a bargain for Marylanders.

The need to extend the Metro system to cover a major part of Maryland is long over-due. Light rail is a welcome substitute due to the present economic condition.
The need for an improved/expanded metro system is not just an economic necessity but also an environmental one, as more cars will be taken off the road. Therefore, it should not be a politicized.

Don't we have bigger issues to deal with?

Fidel Castro said the other day that the coming nuclear holocaust is going the be the fault of Presidentt Barak Obama. (that's Barry Sotero for you 'birthers' out there)

Please tell me how a light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrolton helps. I could understand if this light rail scheme had a real destination such as Fort Meade and BWI Airport.

Perhaps a civil defense program would be a better use of the funny money Bernake's FED keeps creating at some computer terminal. Unless the light rail contractor is Communist Chinese.

In the meantime, when you see the flash, duck and cover!

Mike, calling Bob Ehrlich "Boobie" goes to show that you're clueless, but what really puts the icing on the cake is your idiot comment about Georgetown blocking Metro because of crime. You're wrong. Read about it before you spew an age-old myth:

Sort of like you should read about the state's transportation needs and funding before advocating $2 billion in new spending when we can't keep pace with our existing transportation needs. But hey, when we're promising the world, who's keeping tabs?

The gasoline tax should not be raised until it is once again devoted entirely to our crumbling roads. (Have you seen Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill lately?) Why can't Owe-Malley then use the portion of the sales tax (increased in 2007) devoted to roads to pay for the purple line and other mass transit projects?

Again, why should anybody but the users pay for this. If it's such a great idea they shouldn't mind.

Federal taxes to fund it are absurd. What good does it do somebody in Iowa? Heck what good does it do me in Harford County? I avoid the C metro area like the plague.

BTW, The ICC and other major roads (including the ones I use) should be funded by tolls.

Reporters -- Rather than ask the major Gubernatorial Candidates if they support the Red & Purple lines development or if they support a gas tax increase just ask them how much Maryland's General Fund owes Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund!
The honest answer will shock the public and put the affordability issue in perspective.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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