Deadlines for bids on two light-rail proposals in Maryland have been delayed from March until August, so bidders can explore ways of reducing costs, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's nominee for transportation secretary said Monday as he faced senators who questioned the administration's plans for the projects.
Pete Rahn made the comments during testimony before a Senate panel, which held off on voting on Rahn's nomination and four other Cabinet secretaries for further questions next week.
Lawmakers had many questions about both the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and the Red Line in Baltimore.
"The direction that we are headed with both the Red Line and Purple Line is to see what can we do to reduce costs to make those more viable and still have viable transportation options as a result,'' Rahn said.
Democratic lawmakers have been wary about Rahn's reputation as being highway oriented during previous state transportation posts he has held in New Mexico and Missouri.
Montgomery and Prince George's counties and the city of Baltimore include entirely Democratic delegations in the state capital. The light-rail proposals are seen by many of them as critical in reducing long commutes and terrible traffic congestion.
Rahn said the Hogan administration has not decided against moving ahead with either project.
"The path I'm on right now is how can we take advantage of private investment that could occur and the federal investment that could occur and how could we make our investment less, but productive,'' Rahn said.
Sen. Jamie Raskin, who chairs the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, replied, ``Wonderful. That's the right path to be on.''
The Purple Line would run 16 miles with 21 stations between Bethesda and New Carrollton in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The estimated cost is about $2.4 billion. The Red Line is an east-west public transit line in Baltimore. The estimated cost for the Red Line is about $2.6 billion.
Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, questioned a controversial 118-mile highway project in New Mexico that included a $62 million warranty with Kansas oil and gas company Koch Industries. Rahn said the 1997 project was one of the first public-private partnerships, which have become more common, to improve a dangerous road.
"This was an experiment utilizing a new procurement method,'' Rahn said.
Questions about the New Mexico highway project are expected to resume next week.
"As secretary of transportation, you might have the most important job in the state now,'' Raskin said.