Saturday, June 28, 2014

WSJ: Maryland's Incredible Purple People Mover

How the state's proposed $2.4 billion light rail could take taxpayers for a ride:
With a $2.4 billion price tag, the Maryland Department of Transportation's 16-mile light-rail "Purple Line" won't be built without federal taxpayers as major underwriters. The state is asking them to kick in $900 million for construction costs—and that's before contractors, who are notorious for cost overruns, have even broken ground. That kind of money is a rounding error in Washington but it also seems to be a colossal waste of money...

...Even using the Parsons Brinckerhoff predictions, the project seems misguided. According to the EIS, roughly two-thirds of the riders forecast to use the system by 2040 will come, not out of their cars, but from existing bus lines. In other words, reducing the number of cars on the road, which was once supposedly a key objective, is now a minor side effect of a system that will cost $150 million per mile—if it comes in at budget...

...But Gov. O'Malley and his developer friends want it, and President Obama wants them to have it. The president put a cool $100 million in his 2015 budget for the Purple Line although the FTA has yet to complete the project development phase of its assessment and it hasn't even begun the engineering phase.

Whether Mr. Porcari has been able to help with all this is a matter of speculation. In 2009 he left the Maryland DOT to become President Obama's deputy DOT secretary. In December he left the Obama administration to become senior vice president and national director of strategic consulting at Parsons Brinckerhoff. He did not return requests for comment. But taxpayers could be forgiven for suspecting that he and all the other Purple Line planners are taking them for a ride.


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