Killing the “Red Line” was the Right Call, Governor Hogan

I was happy to see that Governor Larry Hogan’s infrastructure plan nixed the proposed $2.9B Red Line, a train system that would have run from West Baltimore to East Baltimore and required tunneling under the City and defacing much of the Southeast Baltimore waterfront. Obviously, no one is against public transportation, but the Red Line was just a flawed design and ran the risk of being a huge money pit while much of the rest of the State needed significant infrastructural spending.

It’s not right to draw comparisons between the Governor’s declining to fund the Red Line and his decision to allow the Purple Line, a 16-stop light rail in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties¬† to move forward in a truncated fashion. In perspective, the Red Line would cost over 10 times as much as the Purple Line. Moreover, Montgomery County has proposed that some additional funding could be provided locally to offset some of the cost of taxpayers outside of the counties serviced. Baltimore had no such plans for the Red Line. While the Red Line would have had some federal subsidies, the cost was staggering.

The Red Line was proposed, in the words of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, to bring economic opportunity to Baltimore citizens and to grow jobs. The problem is that, at the moment, the proposed line would have sliced through one of the only booming areas in the City and dead-ended in an area that has yet to see any marked growth. If the areas of East Baltimore the Mayor thinks the Red Line would serve actually had the businesses and jobs needing an influx from West Baltimore, then the situation would be vastly different. However, as proposed, the project ran the risk of defacing a large part of the most economically vibrant area of the City without any assurance that it wouldn’t be the Baltimore equivalent of the “big dig.”

I would be remiss in addressing the infrastructure and roads spending if I didn’t offer a bit of criticism about the fact that Baltimore initially appeared left out of the proposed spending. While I do understand the Red Line issue, the fact that a City with significant infrastructural concerns was completely untouched by planned improvements is not good political optics.I know that, since the initial roll-out, there has been a concerted effort to stress that Baltimore receives large amounts of money for its roads and infrastructure. However, the initial message than seemed to filter down from Annapolis was that Baltimore’s problems were a lot bigger than a few roads.

While I am not someone who is joining on the bandwagon saying that road spending is all politics, I do note that it appears that Baltimore is being punished for the intransigence of its Mayor. (I would love to see the idea of I-70 extended into West Baltimore come back to the table. If we are talking about giving people access to transportation and jobs, this would be a major benefit to the West Baltimore community. Yes, I realize there are huge procedural and legal hurdles that would prevent this dialogue from taking place, but we do need better infrastructure and transportation options in West Baltimore that are net positives, instead of pie-in-the-sky potential boondoggles like the Red Line).

Regardless of the politics, getting rid of the Red Line as proposed was the right call for Southeast Baltimore City. This was likely a difficult political and financial decision on the part of the Governor and his team, but everyone living in the Southeast should thank him.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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