In August 2009, former Governor Martin O’Malley approved a plan for a transit system servicing the Baltimore region and nicknamed “the Red Line”. The plan then underwent an environmental impact analysis in 2013 and was eventually given the “okay” to begin construction in 2015. This 14.1 mile, east-to-west transit system would run from the Woodlawn area, through downtown Baltimore, and end up at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus as its final stop. O’Malley and his team hoped that the construction of the Red Line, similar to Washington D.C.’s metro system, would improve mobility and travel time for commuters throughout Baltimore City and to potentially create thousands of jobs. This now 12-year-long project came to a screeching halt on Thursday of last week after newly elected Governor Larry Hogan issued a decision to decline funding of the Red Line.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Governor Hogan dismissed this venture on the grounds that it was too expensive and “made no sense whatsoever.” He called it “wasteful,” “irresponsible,” and “poorly conceived,” reasoning that the state just did not have the $2.9 billion required to spend on such a project. However, not all Baltimore residents share the same mindset. Baltimore City transportation officials last week called the decision a major blow to the jurisdiction’s aged transportation infrastructure. Baltimore Department of Transportation Director William Johnson stated that, “We were kind of thinking the Red Line was going to be a good start. It wasn’t the answer to everything, but it was a good start.” Most who oppose Larry Hogan’s decision are upset that there has already been $288 million invested in the project over the last decade. Others said they believed that the Red Line would have created new jobs and helped to revitalize the area. Some have speculated that Governor Hogan chose to kill the project because the new transit system would have made stops in low-income neighborhoods, including one not far from where Freddie Gray was arrested.
Many agree with Hogan’s decision, stating that Baltimore certainly does need a better public transportation system, but the Red Line was not the solution. They hoped that the remainder of the money saved from choosing not to proceed with the Red Line could be put into a new and improved bus system. Whether you support the Governor’s decision or not, this may not be the end of the Red Line – Maryland Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Henson says that the project has not necessarily been “killed,” but rather “put on the shelf.” A future governor could certainly revive the project. Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is still holding out hope that the Red Line project can be revived during Governor Hogan’s tenure, stating recently that she is “still holding out hope that there is a way that the (city) delegation can keep it alive.”
Marylanders agree on one thing: Baltimore’s mass transit system needs a major upgrade. The Red Line project has been canceled with no plans to begin work on an alternative. Will Baltimore get the public transportation solution they’re looking for? Not any time soon, it would appear.
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