Franchot blasts report, reaffirms transit support
State Comptroller Peter Franchot reaffirmed his support for construction of two light rail lines as he accused a Washington newspaper of distorting his position after he questioned the costs of a contract for engineering on the projects.
Franchot released a statement Thuesday in which he said he felt compelled to respond to a Washington Examiner that he called a "gross misrepresentation of my longtime position" on the Purple Line in the Washington suburbs. The comptroller said he fully supports construction of the 16-mile light rail lline from New Carrollton to Bethesda, as well as the east-west Red Line in Baltimore.
The Examiner, in an stricle that bore the online headline "Franchot swings at Purple Line," interpreted the comptroller's remarks as a criticism of the cost of the projects themselves.
The dispute centers on Franchot's comments about a $160 million engineering contract that came before the state Board of Publlic Works -- on which he sits -- Wednesday. Franchot had asked a series of questions about the cost of the contracts, which involve work on both of the proposed transit lines, as well as a third line in northern Montgomery County known as the Corridor Cities Transitway.
"Franchot said the contracts are a poor use of money when the state's existing transportation system is ailing," the conservative-leaning Examiner reported.
In his statement, Franchot said he said no such thing. The comptroller said he was merely asking "substantive questions" about the cost and term of the contracts in his role as taxpayer advocate. He said that after hearing "thoughful and detailed" responses from the Maryland Department of Transportation, he joined Gov. Martin O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp in approving the contracts.
The Purple and Red lines are senitive topics because their future is a central issue in the governor's race. While O'Malley has said he will move forward with the two lines as light rail projects, Republican nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has said he would pull the plug on them -- contending the state does not have enough money to build them as light rail lines. He has said he would consider building them as rapid bus routes.
Franchot, a Democrat who is supporting O'Malley's re-election, rejected any implication that he is leaning toward Ehrlich's point of view.
"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," Franchot said.