Ernst ‘Squeal Award’ Goes to National Capital’s Purple Line, a ‘Billion-Dollar Boondoggle’

By Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times.
June 29, 2022 Updated: June 29, 2022

Calling it a “billion-dollar boondoggle,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) named a chronically over-budget and behind-schedule public transportation project in the nation’s capital as the winner of her latest Squeal Award highlighting waste and fraud in government spending.

“The National Capital Purple Line, which was supposed to connect Washington D.C.’s subway lines in the Maryland suburbs, is on track to being yet another billion-dollar-boondoggle. It was over budget and behind schedule before it even started,” Ernst said in a statement made available to The Epoch Times on June 29.

“Construction costs have steadily increased from $2 billion to $3.4 billion, while the overall price tag to build, operate, and manage the system has ballooned from $5.6 billion to $9.3 billion,” Ernst said.

The Iowa Republican added that “as the costs go up, the completion date keeps getting pushed back! The service, originally expected to begin in spring 2022, is now delayed until fall 2026.”

The Purple Line extension of the Washington region’s public transportation subway system is designed to connect Maryland’s heavily populated inner suburbs through an East-West corridor.

Construction began in 2017 but the project—the biggest public infrastructure construction effort in Maryland history—has been plagued with delays, cost-overruns, and court fights.

“The project has literally been stopped in its tracks for two years because the companies building it quit. Ironic, since the Purple Line was promoted as ‘Transit that Works,'” Ernst said in her statement.

The project’s problems go beyond costs and scheduling, however, because, the Iowa Republican pointed out, “to get the rail service back on track, a contractor with its own track record of cost overruns and delays has been hired to complete the construction of the system.

“And the company selected to produce the trains for the Purple Line was responsible for making the D.C. subway system’s ‘least reliable’ passenger cars.”

Ernst uses her Squeal Awards to highlight waste, fraud and abuse in the federal budget.

First elected in 2014, Ernst has become the Senate’s most prominent foe of wasteful spending, a role previously fulfilled by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who was famously known among colleagues as “Dr. No” because of his stalwart opposition to pork barrel spending.

Coburn retired from the Senate the same year Ernst was first elected.

Ernst has also been a vocal critic of a controversial extension of the San Francisco region’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) public transportation subway system that has been championed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The project would extend the BART system into nearby San Jose, the hub of the Silicon Valley high-tech region.

“I previously called out Speaker Pelosi’s six mile subway extension from San Francisco to Silicon Valley that was already expected to cost a billion dollars per mile to build.  The price tag has since increased 50% to more than $9 billion!

“And of course, it’s delayed,” Ernst said in the statement.

“Fully aware of these problems, the Biden administration is nonetheless committing up to $2.3 billion of taxpayer dollars to Pelosi’s poorly-planned pork project. What could possibly go wrong,” Ernst asked.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is providing the Purple Line more than $910 million in tax-funded grants, as well as guaranteeing a loan of nearly $1.8 billion to keep the struggling subway project afloat.

Ernst also made public on June 29 a letter she sent Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg reminding him that under legislation she authored and that became law in 2021, the department is required to provide a comprehensive report to Congress by November of all public construction projects that are $1 billion or more over-budget, or five years or more behind schedule.

“The intent of this provision, which I authored, is to establish an automatic alert system that will raise alarms about projects with ballooning budgets and missed deadlines, so that Congress and DOT can take whatever actions that may be necessary to prevent financially mis-managed projects from becoming billion-dollar boondoggles,” Ernst told Buttigieg.

Mark Tapscott
Congressional Correspondent
Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times.