Rahn Weakens Hogan’s Hand on Purple Line

Robert McCartney in the Washington Post broke the story on Wednesday that Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn has recommend building the Purple Line:

Rahn urged his boss to go ahead with the light-rail project in the Washington suburbs providing that the price tag is trimmed by about $300 million from the estimated $2.45 billion cost and that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties pay a bigger share, one of the officials said. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because while they have been briefed on Rahn’s action, they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

I tend to give credence to the story because of the response from the Governor’s office:

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said he could not confirm that Rahn had urged the governor to back a less-costly version of the project, rather than postpone it or kill it outright.

“As far as I know, no final recommendations have been made to the governor,” Mayer said. He declined to say whether Rahn had delivered a preliminary judgment.

If Rahn had yet to deliver his judgement or it was negative, wouldn’t Hogan’s spokesman issue a flat denial instead of a “no comment” in response to these questions?

Assuming that’s the case, the story places Hogan in an awkward position. If Hogan moves forward with the project, he looks weak and pushed into it by Rahn, despite the strong opposition of many Republicans. Alternatively, if Hogan nixes it, he looks like he has ignored the advice of the Secretary he charged with it and transit advocates will beat him over the head about it.

Either way, Hogan doesn’t look good. Rahn also cannot be happy that the press got a hold of this story. It portrays him as the indiscreet member of administration that has had strong message discipline. It also doesn’t aid his future job prospects, as people don’t want to hire someone who speaks out of school.

Side Note: Was Montgomery Council President George Leventhal, quoted later in the article as confirming the story, the source of the leak despite his protestations that:

I really like the secretary, and I hope I haven’t said anything that gets him in trouble. He was abundantly clear that he supports the project, he wants to build the project, and he was getting ready to make his recommendation.”

After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone was quoted as confirming their own “anonymous” leak.