Metro feud ends with land exchange

Liv Burns
October 30, 2017

A two-week feud between Maryland and D.C. Metro board officials ended quietly Thursday morning when the board agreed to alter the committee structure in exchange for land Maryland desperately needs for its 16-mile light-rail Purple Line.

Board chairman Jack Evans had threatened to withhold the land if Maryland representatives did not agree to change the committee structure, saying that he would employ a rarely-used veto to stop the transfer of lands.

Evan’s threats have not gone unnoticed. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. called for Evan’s resignation and accused him of extortion.

“Jack Evans' unsuccessful attempt to extort the taxpayers of Maryland was a waste of the board's valuable time,” Hannah Marr, Hogan’s press director, said in a statement. “This episode is the latest in a series of random and counterproductive outbursts illustrating that is time for Mr. Evans' chairmanship to come to an end.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe agreed, telling WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” that Evans needed to “knock it off.” McAuliffe also called Evans’ remarks “crazy” and “insane.” Evans declined to comment. Maryland committee members had tabled the proposal last summer, concerned that it distributed power unfairly.

Keturah D. Harley, the Metro representative from Maryland, abstained from Thursday’s vote via phone call; in July, Harley said she couldn’t support the restructuring proposal. In a 7-1 vote, the board decreased the number of committees from seven to four. Corbett A. Price, chair of the metro governance committee, proposed the changes. The proposal cut down the number of committees but didn’t restructure the election calendar, which would have extended Evans’ term by six months. Evans’ term ends in January.

“At the end of the day, we came together with an agreement,” Evans said in remarks after the meeting. “The Purple Line was voted on. The committee structure was voted on. And we came together and moved forward.”

Metro will turn over land at the New Carrolton, College Park and Silver Spring Metro stops for a combined value between $24 and $37 million. In exchange, Maryland will give Metro a 450-space parking lot for a total value of $17.1 million. Construction of the Purple Line is expected to begin next month, according to the Maryland metro website. The 16-mile light-rail Purple Line will open for service in 2022, connecting Bethesda and New Carrolton. Twenty-one stations are planned.

Though all has been resolved for now, the relationship between Evans and Hogan remains strained.

“The most important thing is that the Purple Line easements went through,” Hogan’s communications director Mayer said. “But Evans should still resign because of this ridiculous episode.”