By Anika Reed and Jasmine Whittington
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON–The infrastructure of passenger and transit rail hangs in the balance without long-term federal funding, according to a report released Friday by the BlueGreen Alliance and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC).
Representatives from the BlueGreen Alliance and the ELPC cited Maryland’s Purple Line as a prime example of a transit project that would improve infrastructure and create jobs. Long-term funding from Congress for transit manufacturing will improve mobility, reduce pollution, and help the economy, according to the report presented at a news conference at the National Press Club.
Larry Hogan’s election as Maryland’s governor has presented a new challenge for the Purple Line in Maryland’s suburbs of Washington, D.C., and the Red Line in Baltimore. In his campaign, Hogan questioned the expense of the mass transit projects.
The $2.4 billion, 16-mile Purple Line would extend from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County, and the $2.9 billion Red Line would extend 14 miles between Woodlawn in Baltimore County and Bayview in East Baltimore.
Pete Rahn, Hogan’s nominee for Maryland’s transportation secretary, told two legislative committees Wednesday that he will keep an open mind while reviewing all the information about the two rail proposals and hopes to make a recommendation to Hogan in the next 90 days.
The fate of the Purple and Red lines rests in the hands of Rahn and Hogan as well as federal funding in order to move forward.
The Democrats in Maryland’s Congressional delegation wrote a letter to Hogan in mid-January expressing support for the two lines and strongly urging him to approve the projects.
“As you build out the Red and Purple Line you will get jobs wherever that car is assembled and also across the country,” said Zoe Lipman, senior policy advisor of the BlueGreen Alliance. “You’ll see manufacturing benefits.”
The Purple Line is the type of pending venture that “depend[s] on the funding coming together [and] being guaranteed over the long term,” Lipman said.
The BlueGreen Alliance is a partnership between labor unions and environmental organizations such as ELPC.
The U.S. rail manufacturing industry is sustained by 90,000 jobs, according to the report. More than 750 companies in at least 39 states, including Maryland, manufacture transit and passenger rail cars as well as their components and related equipment.
“This system is stressed, and the job creation is pretty relevant,” said Kimberly Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance. Though there is bipartisan agreement in Congress about the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure, there is disagreement on how to do so.
“Once there’s long-term funding, businesses cannot just keep people hired, but they can come up with a business plan,” ELPC’s deputy director Kevin Brubaker said. “Without that long-term demand, there’s no ability to make business decisions.”
Improvement of the rail system is vital due to the rising demand for passenger and transit rail, according to Howard Learner, president and executive director of the ELPC.
Learner indicated millennials currently spend their dollars on transit assets rather than on cars. “We need to invest for that 21st century future,” Learner said.