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Maryland Gubernatorial Debate Focuses on Light Rail Project Without Addressing Existing Traffic Congestion

bus station at night

It comes as no surprise to many Maryland residents that the controversial “Purple Line” light-rail proposal has taken the spotlight in the gubernatorial debates between Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and businessman Larry Hogan (R), who are both currently running for the position of Maryland governor. While the major public transportation project is beneficial for Marylanders in theory, Republican candidate Hogan represents a large portion of residents who oppose the project.

The light-rail project would run through Washington suburbs and would provide countless Maryland residents with fast public transportation options throughout the Baltimore-D.C. metro area — but at a price. It’s reported that the Purple Line would require about $245 billion to build, and an additional $58 million per year to operate.

Lt. Gov. Brown has publicly condemned Hogan for stating that he would both prevent the Purple Line project from beginning and would shut down the $2.9 billion Red Line light-rail project that is planned for the narrower Baltimore city region.

“Mr. Hogan doesn’t support the Purple Line,” the Lt. Gov. stated. “He’s not a supporter of mass transit.”

Hogan has told various media outlets that he would be open to considering a light-rail project, upon reconsideration, but it seems that neither candidate is really addressing the problem of mass transit at all. As the Washington Post notes, there are already three major spots of traffic congestion in the Baltimore-D.C. area: the decrepit Metrorail system which connects the entirety of D.C. and extends out to Maryland, the American Legion Bridge congestion, and the notorious gridlocks on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 roads. Neither candidate, it seems, has made an effort to fix any of these existing problems.

Facilitating public transportation would likely benefit the state of Maryland (as it would benefit any state, really) — an estimated 16 million cars are sold each year in the U.S., and as that number grows due to lower unemployment rates and more economic stability, it’s clear that more public transportation options would discourage people from driving in single-passenger cars, and it would thin out the congestion on major Maryland roadways.

On the other hand, it’s certain that both the Purple Line and Red Line projects will take a toll on Maryland’s budget, and it’s also hard to predict if either line will have a significant impact on reducing existing traffic congestion.

But as a spokeswomen for Hogan told the Post,over 50% of Maryland’s transportation funds go to public transit costs, even though the majority of Marylanders don’t use public transportation. Whichever candidate wins the race will certainly end up dealing with transportation issues sooner rather than later, lest Maryland seize up in one giant gridlock.

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