Wes Vernon Commentary
August 2015

Purple Line: Will the Trains Run Before We're All Dead?

The Purple Line light rail project finally has been given a hugely (hoped for) final go ahead, as Governor Larry Hogan green-lighted the ambitious economic engine that would connect Washington's Maryland suburbs, with stops carefully placed at major business centers and near the residential areas of potential customers and employees, as well as stops at four Metrorail connections; the Red Line at Bethesda and Silver Spring; the Green and Yellow lines at College Park; and the Orange Line at New Carrollton.

We did it, and we're glad

This column is proud to have championed this cause, along with other (more powerful) advocates of growth and prosperity, as well as organized activists promoting better travel options for residents in their daily lives. For thirty years the Purple Line project has been cussed and discussed, and finally Governor Hogan, here and now in 2015 passed (so far) an EARLY major test of his campaign portrayal as a smart businessman who knows what it takes to give these communities within the state a badly-needed economic shot in the arm.

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys--and Ahem...er--Dumb Guys (and Gals)?

Oh, but what about Baltimore neighbors? They too were hoping for the go-ahead from the state capitol on a new "Red Line" serving their community. They came up empty-handed. Hmmm -- anyone want to wonder why? Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake says she is "disheartened" that Governor Hogan would leave her city out of the 2015 light rail sweepstakes.

Far be it for me to try to read the governor's mind. He rejected any "investment" in the proposed 14.1-mile Red Line. (Not to be confused with the 29-year-old Washington Red Line Metrorail subway that has one line serving Montgomery with two spokes at either end of the county reaching D.C. That's a different story.)

The yet-to-built (if ever) Red Line

As for Baltimore's proposed light rail Red Line: Why did the governor block it after okaying the Purple Line?

Let's imagine a hypothetical for a moment, okay?

I can envision a possibility that any governor (not necessarily this one, but any governor) as he was pondering the Baltimore Red Line, would say to himself, "Now let me see if I have this straight. The city of Baltimore wants me to come up with the scratch for a portion of an estimated $2.9-billion rail line. But at the same time the city's rowdies are out there doing their Burn, Baby, Burn act, the mayor says right out loud in public that she stood by, told the cops to look the other way because the destructive elements of the city needed to get this anger out of their system, and besides it is 'only' private property, so who cares? Now look, as Governor of Maryland, part of my job is to try to have concern for the legitimate needs of all our citizens, but Holy Cow, I'm not in the business of handing out money so thugs can 'go to it' and try to burn the city down because they have a bee in their bonnets. How much of the money these guys wanted me to hand them could have helped pay for their share of the Red Line? Tsk! Tsk! I'm very 'disheartened' by that."

Meanwhile the Purple Line, whose backers possess a better sense of how to count their change, would be justified in requesting Baltimore's now-denied share of the state money too, but maybe they'd better grab what they've got and run while they're ahead. All-out war with the Burn Baby Burn crowd isn't worth it.

Cold Water, Naysayers, & Yammerers

The governor made it plain; however, that he is not giving away the store. He is expecting the counties benefitting from the Purple Line to kick in more than previously thought.

Montgomery's county council members indicate this no problem. Nonetheless it is a problem for Montgomery's Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who protests that (gasp!) the counties directly benefiting from the line will (horrors!) be asked to pay more for it. Whoever thought of such an outrageous thing? Expecting people to pay for what they get! The nerve!

So what's Van Hollen's problem? Pssst! Have you forgotten? He's running for the U.S. Senate. That means he wants to add constituents from Prince George's which does have a problem with such an expectation, to say nothing of those Baltimore folks, including those whose mayor wants to (über alles) soothe the anger of the Burn, Baby, Burn crowd.

Trial bar licking its chops

Ah, yes! The Desert Rat lobby is gearing up for its turn at litigating for the greenies and no doubt to advance the green color of money bolstering their bottom lines, including monetary fuel for their next "Global Warming" case.

One Chevy Chase attorney thinks he has found an obscure creature residing in park areas a couple of miles south of the proposed Purple Line rail. (Oh, dear!) (but) Hot dog! Goody! Goody! Think of all those court appearances and billable hours arising from publicity of our well-publicized court appearances!

The amateur land-grabbers

Then there are those hiker/bikers who just took over the train tracks almost the day after the trains of the Chessie System (aka CSX) vacated the cross-county freight line in 1984. They didn't ask the county for it; they grabbed the property and waxed indignant when the tracks were proposed for usage by many more commuters (i.e., for the greater good).

The county did nothing to stop them right from the start. I mean, this is somewhat akin to a homeowner confronting a burglar his house and saying, "Pray tell, what brings you here, my friend. Here, let's settle this like civilized people. Tell you what: You bring your lawyer here and I'll bring mine, and we can sit down here and have a conversation like gentlemen. Here, have a beer with me while we wait.

For the land absconders, let every comment this column has applied to them over the years apply double. (Sigh!)

It ain't over 'til it's over

It says here the bidder for the Purple Line design and construction could begin by May 16, and that the bidder is to be named by January 15. The Washington Post attributes that to bid documents.

We should be so lucky. We can only hope. We still have many hurdles to navigate until the Purple Line is built. So we need to stick to this fight and hope we get to ride the Purple Line trains before we're all dead.

Wes Vernon, a longtime member of the CRA, is also a longtime columnist for the High Green.