(Reuters) - Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said on Thursday he had approved a scaled-back light rail project for the Washington suburbs and rejected one in Baltimore that backers had touted as a tool to combat the poverty that fueled April rioting.
Approval for the trimmed-down Purple Line outside Washington was part of a $1.97 billion transportation package announced by Hogan. Much of the spending was earmarked for roads and bridges.
The Purple Line project would run 16 miles from Bethesda to New Carrollton, outside Washington. It was originally designed to cost $2.45 billion, including $700 million from the state.
Hogan's office said in a statement that Maryland's contribution under a scaled-back version was cut to $168 million.
"The Purple Line is a long-term investment that will be an important economic driver for our state,” said Hogan, a Republican making his first appearance since saying on Monday that he has cancer.
Baltimore's Red Line, a 14-mile east-west light rail project, had been pushed as a way of combating the poverty that fueled rioting in April after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from an injury suffered in police custody.
"It makes no sense to anybody whatsoever," Hogan told a news conference. He said the project's major flaw was a costly tunnel.
Rejection of the project is a major blow to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had backed the Red Line as a source of jobs and economic development.
Hogan had said during his election campaign last year that Maryland could not afford either the Red or the Purple Line. He had directed transportation officials to evaluate both projects and make a recommendation.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and John Clarke; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)