Deadlines for proposals for the Purple Line rail project have been delayed at least 30 days to accommodate the swearing in of Gov.-elect Larry Hogan.
Four potential bidders, called concessionaires, were informed of the delay by email, said Henry Kay, Maryland Transit Administration executive director for transit development and delivery.
Kay confirmed the email and attributed the delay to a change in administration.
“As a result of the pending change of governor, we’ve notified the proposers that we’re going to delay the proposal due date at least a month in order to give the incoming administration a bit of time to take a look at the project, understand it, and make whatever modifications they have in mind.”
The timeline set nearly a year ago called for the private sector teams to submit plans for proposed changes to the proposed 16-mile line by Nov. 19. Completed proposals were due by Jan. 9.
Kay said extending the deadline would not affect plans to break ground on the project in 2015.
Hogan, only the second Republican elected governor since Spiro Agnew in 1966, is scheduled to be sworn-in Jan. 21.
During the campaign, Hogan expressed concerns about the $2.45 billion cost of the 21-station, east-west line that would connect Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The line would connect to the D.C. Metro’s Orange Line, Green Line and two branches of the Red Line, and to MARC’s Brunswick, Camden and Penn Lines
Hogan has expressed similar concerns for the proposed $2.9 billion Red Line that would connect east Baltimore to western Baltimore County.
It is not clear if the delay would have occurred had Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown been elected instead of Hogan.
Erin Montgomery, a Hogan administration spokeswoman, was not immediately available for comment.
Since his election, Hogan has declined to elaborate on the fate of either line, saying such policy announcements would come in January.
Gregory Sanders, an officer with Purple Line Now, said supporters of the rail project are disappointed with any delay but confident Hogan will see the economic benefits and job potential and approve its construction.
“We have a fair amount of hope and we’re eager to talk with him,” Sanders said. “For now, we’re taking the governor at his word that he wants to review the project and we believe he’ll see the economic potential.”
Key to the governor-elect’s concerns is the use of money raised by an increase in the gas tax — 20 cents once full phased-in — that would be used to pay the winning concessionaire.
Under the terms of the deal, the winning private group would build and maintain the Purple Line in return for payments over 30 to 40 years from the state based on certain performance criteria. The state hopes to use a similar arrangement for smaller portions of the Red Line.
Hogan would rather use the additional gas tax revenue to pay for roads projects. He said in an October interview with The Daily Record that the rail projects were too expensive.
“We can’t afford it right now,” Hogan said in that interview.
“We’re not going to start construction at this point,” Hogan said of the projects. “They drain all the money out of the transportation trust fund. My priority is to get road construction on track.”
The governor-elect stopped short of saying he would kill the projects and said he would consider providing money for design only.
Sanders said any significant delay, which he defined as longer than a month, would risk $900 million in promised federal money that is earmarked for the project.
“This project brings non-transferable federal spending to Maryland,” Saunders said. “That’s not something you can simply pick up and move to a new project.”