April Editorial: Purple Line’s ongoing problems have not deterred Maryland governor

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Maryland’s Purple Line project.
Purple Line

I was slowly dropping, trying to figure out what the hand in front of my face was trying to tell me.

Nothing was working. My back was arched, my hands were in front of me, I thought my knees were bent properly, but then I hit the bottom of the steel cage. The wind was over 50 mph and I was dead weight.

For a Christmas break excursion for the kids, we decided to take them to one of those indoor skydiving facilities. I was not too keen on the idea of flopping into a giant wind tube, but anything for the kids, right? After we received a 15-minute tutorial, which included hand signals the guide uses to help you fly, we were in line and ready to take the plunge. I went first, and I was the worst. The first time I went in I sunk and slammed into the side of the tube, and there were spectators. I found out almost instantly that my 6-ft 6-in. lanky frame was about as aerodynamic as a World War II tank, and after about a minute of fumbling and bumbling, and getting all of the hand signals wrong that could improve my flight, I was shoved back into the waiting area. The instructor used me as an example of what not to do. My wife and three kids proceeded to experience very little turbulence, and I am certain it is because they learned off the model of anti-skydiving. Anything for the kids, right?

I did improve on my second attempt, but I will never again spread my wings for an artificial free fall.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan does not mind watching something hit that steel cage bottom. The Purple Line project playing out in his state has been the opposite of a smooth flight. On top of the delays and cost escalations, lawsuits have been filed and a few have played out, and at one point workers involved in the public-private partnership permanently abandoned the jobsite. Those delays and cost escalations reached an altitude that simply was not survivable.

The nightmare apparently has not given Hogan any night sweats. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee in late February, Hogan said he liked the private investment that has been put into the Purple Line in the Washington, D.C., and Maryland areas.

You might as well be throwing hand signals in front of my face here, because this is just not registering in my brain. The state of Maryland is facing its third lawsuit involving the Purple Line project this spring. The first two were dismissed, and it looks like the third one will be as well, but all the litigation has just delayed the project and increased the cost. Furthermore, Maryland reached a settlement with the contractors that decided to run, one that will cost it $250 million.

The state also had to take on the burden of dealing with subcontractors in an attempt to keep some of the construction going when work abruptly stopped last year.

Soon the Purple Line project will have another contractor and there will be a second attempt to get it right. If I can miraculously float after a forgettable first attempt I guess anything is possible. However, how will things go differently with the Purple Line project?

As I have said before, I think private investment can be very beneficial and could be the only way some needed projects can get off the ground. This country has few positive experiences to build on, with the Purple Line serving as the definition of bad.

Yet there is Hogan, finding the good in a fatal crash.

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